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THE SOUTH COUNTRY 



THE HEART OF ENGLAND 
SERIES 



This Series opens with a new work by Mr. 
Edward Thomas, that curious and enthusi- 
astic explorer of the English Countryside, whose 
prose style gives him a claim to be regarded 
as the successor, as he is the biographer, of 
Richard Jefferies. The Series includes a new 
edition of Mr. Thomas's other work, "The 
Heart of England," and Mr. HiLAiRE Bel- 
Loc's "The Historic Thames." These two 
volumes were originally issued in limited 
editions at one Guinea net per volume. 

THE SOUTH COUNTRY. By 

Edward Thomas, Small crown 8vo. 
3S. 6d. net. 

Mr. Thomas in this new book gives his 
impressions of a year's wanderings afoot as 
the seasons change through Kent, Sussex, 
Hampshire, Wiltshire and Cornwall. It is a 
pro=?e-poem of the most beautiful counties in 
England. 

THE HEART OF ENGLAND. 

By Edward Thomas. Small crown 8vo. 
3s. 6d. net. 

THE HISTORIC THAMES. 

By Hilaire Belloc, M.P. 3s. 6d. net. 



Prospectus 0/ above Books sent post free on application. 

J. M. DENT & CO. 

29-30, BEDFORD STREET, LONDON, W.C. 



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'* As I can't leap from cloud to cloud, I want to wander 
from road to road. That little path there by the clipped 
hedge goes up to the high road. I want to go up that 
path and to walk along the high road, and so on and on 
and on, and to know all kinds of people. Did you ever 
think that the roads are the only things that are endless ; 
that one can walk on and on, and never be stopped by a 
gate or a wall? They are the serpent of eternity. I 
wonder they have never been worshipped. What are 
the stars beside them ? They never meet one another. 
The roads are the only things that are infinite. They 

are all endless." 

Paul Ruttledge in 

JVhere there is Nothings 

by W. B. Yeats. 



I 



TO 

EDWARD GARNETT 



CONTENTS 



THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

THE END OF WINTER 
SHIRE 



SUFFOLK 



HA MP 



III. 
IV. 
V. 
VI. 
VII. 
VIII. 

IX. 

X. 

XI. 

XII. 

XIII. 

XIV. 
XV. 
XVI. 



SPRING — HAMPSHIRE — KENT — SURREY 
AN ADVENTURER .... 

SUSSEX 

A RETURN TO NATURE . 

A RAILWAY CARRIAGE — SURREY — SUSSEX 



JUNE HAMPSHIRE — THE GOLDEN AGE 

TRAHERNE ..... 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 
CORNWALL 



HAMPSHIRE 



SUMMER — SUSSEX 

HAMPSHIRE — AN UMBRELLA MAN . 

CHILDREN OF EARTH — HAMPSHIRE AND SUSSEX 

AUGUST — GOING WESTWARD — HAMPSHIRE 
AND WILTSHIRE 

AN OLD HOUSE AND A BOOK — WILTSHIRE 

AN OUTCAST — WILTSHIRE .... 

THE END OF SUMMER — KENT — BERKSHIRE 
— HAMPSHIRE — SUSSEX — THE FAIR . 



PAGE 

I 



15 
40 
61 

68 

73 
95 



147 
180 
186 
196 

210 
23s 

245 

255 



Several short passages from this book have been 
printed in "The Saturday Review," "The Nation," 
"The New Age," "The Daily Chronicle," and "The 
Daily News," and are reprinted by permission. 



THE SOUTH COUNTRY 



I 



CHAPTER I 

THE SOUTH COUNTRY 



The name of " South Country " is taken from a poem 
by Mr. Hilaire Belloc, beginning — 

" When T am Hving in the Midlands, 
They are sodden and unkind, 
I light my lamp in the evening, 

My work is left behind ; 
And the great hills of the South Country 
Come back into my mind." 

The name is given to the south of England as distin- 
guished from the Midlands, " North England ", and 
" West England " by the Severn. The poet is thinking 
particularly of Sussex and of the South Downs. In using 
the term I am thinking of all that country w^hich is 
dominated by the Downs or by the English Channel, or 
by both; Cornwall and East Anglia have been admitted 
only for the sake of contrast. Roughly speaking, it is 
the country south of the Thames and Severn and east 
of Exmoor, and it includes, therefore, the counties of 

B 



2 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, 
Dorset, and part of Somerset. East and west across it 
go ranges of chalk hills, their sides smoothly hollowed by 
Nature and the marl-burner, or sharply scored by old 
roads. On their lower slopes they carry the chief woods 
of the south country, their coombes are often fully fledged 
with trees, and sometimes their high places are crowned 
with beech or fir; but they are most admirably themselves 
when they are bare of all but grass and a few bushes of 
gorse and juniper and some yew, and their ridges make 
flowing but infinitely variable clear lines against the sky. 
Sometimes they support a plateau of flint and clay, which 
slopes gradually to the level of the streams. Sometimes 
they fall away to the vales in well-defined ledges — first a 
long curving slope, then a plain of cornland, and below 
that a steep but lesser slope covered with wood, and then 
again grassland or sandy heaths and rivers. Except on the 
plateau, the summits have few houses and very small 
hamlets; the first terrace has larger villages and even a 
town or two; but most of the towns are beneath on the 
banks of the rivers, and chiefly where they are broadest 
near the sea, or on the coast itself. The rivers flow mainly 
north and south, and can have but a short course before 
they enter the sea on the south or the Thames on the 
north. Those I remember best are the Stours, the two 
Rothers, but especially the one which joins the Arun, the 
Medway, the Len, the Eden, the Holling, the Teise, the 
Ouse, the Itchen, the Meon, the Wey, the Mole, the 
Kennet, the Ray, the Winterbournes, the Wiltshire Avon, 
the Wylye, the Ebble, and many little waters running gold 
over New Forest gravel or crystal over the chalk of Hamp- 



THE SOUTH COUNTRY 3 

shire, and not least of all that unlucky rivulet, the Wandle, 
once a nymph that walked among her sisters — 

So amiable, fair, so pure, so delicate. 
So plump, so full, so fresh, her eyes so wondrous clear : 
And first unto her lord, at JVandsavorth doth appear, 
That in the goodly court, of their great sovereign Tames y 
There might no other speech be had amongst the streams. 
But only of this Nymph, sweet Wandel, what she wore ; 
Of her complexion, grace, and how herself she bore. 

Nor can I omit the Wiltshire and Berkshire canal, as it 
was fifteen years ago, between Swindon and Dauntsey, 
an unfrequented by-way through a quiet dairy country, and 
full of pike and tench among the weeds and under the 
tall water docks and willow herbs which even then threat- 
ened to subdue it as they now have done. 

The chief roads make south, south-east, south-west and 
west from London; almost the only road going east and 
west and not touching London is the old road known 
between Winchester and Canterbury as the Pilgrims' Way. 

Most of the towns are small market towns, manu- 
facturing chiefly beer; or they are swollen, especially in 
the neighbourhood of London, as residential quarters on 
lines of railway or as health and pleasure resorts on the 
sea. But any man used to maps will be wiser on these 
matters in an hour than I am. For what I have sought 
is quiet and as complete a remoteness as possible from 
towns, whether of manufactures, of markets or of cathe- 
drals. I have used a good many maps in my time, 
largely to avoid the towns; but I confess that I prefer 
to do without them and to go, if I have some days 
before me, guided by the hills or the sun or a stream 
— or, if I have one day only, in a rough circle, trusting, 
B 2 



4 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

by taking a series of turnings to the left or a series to 
the right, to take much beauty by surprise and to return 
at last to my starting-point. On a dull day or cloudy 
night I have often no knowledge of the points of the 
compass. I never go out to see anything. The sign- 
boards thus often astonish me. I vv^ish, by the way, 
that I had noted down more of the. names on the sign- 
boards at the cross-roads. There is a wealth of poetry 
in them, as in that which points — by a ford, too — first, 
to Poulner and Ringwood ; second, to Gorley and 
Fordingbridge; third, to Linwood and Broomy : and 
another pointing to Fordingbridge, to Ringwood, and to 
Cuckoo Hill and Furze Hill : and another in the parish 
of Pentlow, pointing to Foxearth and Sudbury, to Caven- 
dish and Clare, and to Belchamps and Yeldham. Castles, 
churches, old houses, of extraordinary beauty or interest, 
have never worn out any of my shoe leather except by 
accident. I like to come upon them — usually without 
knowing their names and legends — but do not lament 
when chance takes me a hundred times out of their way. 
Nor have I ever been to Marlow to think about Shelley, 
or to Winterslow for Hazlitt's sake; and I enter Buriton 
many times without remembering Gibbon. They would 
move me no more than the statue of a man and a fat 
horse (with beribboned tail), which a grateful country- 
side erected to William III in the market square at 
Petersfield. I prefer any country church or chapel to 
Winchester or Chichester or Canterbury Cathedral, just 
as I prefer " All round my hat," or " Somer is icumen 
in" to Beethoven. Not that I dislike the cathedrals, or 
that I do not find many pleasures amongst them. But 



THE SOUTH COUNTRY 5 

they are incomprehensible and not restful. I feel when I 
am within them that I know why a dog bays at the 
moon. They are much more difficult or, rather, I am 
more conscious in them of my lack of comprehension, 
than the hills or the sea; and I do not like the showmen, 
the smell and look of the museum, the feeling that it is 
admiration or nothing, and all the well-dressed and fly- 
blown people round about. I sometimes think that 
religious architecture is a dead language, majestic but 
dead, that it never was a popular language. Have some 
of these buildings lived too long, been too well preserved, 
so as to oppress our little days with too permanent an 
expression of the passing things? The truth is that, 
though the past allures me, and to discover a cathedral 
for myself would be an immense pleasure, I have no 
historic sense and no curiosity. I mention these trivial 
things because they may be important to those who read 
what I am paid for writing. I have read a great deal 
of history — in fact, a university gave me a degree out of 
respect for my apparent knowledge of historj'^ — but I 
have forgotten it all, or it has got into my blood and is 
present in me in a form which defies evocation or 
analysis. But as far as I can tell I am pure of history. 
Consequently I prefer the old brick houses round the 
cathedral, and that avenue of archaic bossy limes to the 
cathedral itself with all its turbulent quiet and vague 
antiquity. The old school also close at hand ! I was 
there after the end of the term once, and two boys were 
kicking a football in a half-walled court; it was a bright, 
cold, windy April afternoon; and the ancient brick was 
penetrated with their voices and the sound of the ball, 



6 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

and I thought there could be nothing loveh'er than that 
court, the pleasant walls, and the broad playing fields in 
sight of a smooth noble hill and a temple of dark firs 
on top. I was not thinking of Winchester or of any one 
older than the fondest son of that " mother, more than 
mother," and little of him; but was merely caught up by 
and with the harmony of man and his work, of two 
children playing, and of the green downs and windy sky. 
And so I travel, armed only with myself, an avaricious 
and often libertine and fickle eye and ear, in pursuit, not 
of knowledge, not of wisdom, but of one whom to pursue 
is never to capture. Politics, the drama, science, racing, 
reforms and preservations, divorces, book clubs — nearly 
everything which the average (oh ! mysterious average 
man, always to be met but never met) and the superior 
and the intelligent man is thinking of, I cannot grasp; 
my mind refuses to deal with them; and when they are 
discussed I am given to making answers like, " In Kilve 
there is no weathercock." I expect there are others as 
unfortunate, superfluous men such as the sanitation, 
improved housing, police, charities, medicine of our won- 
derful civilization saves from the fate of the cuckoo's 
foster-brothers. They will perhaps follow my meanders 
and understand. The critics also will help. They will 
misunderstand — it is their trade. How well they know 
what I ought, or at least ought not, to do. I must, they 
have said, avoid " the manner of the worst oleographs "; 
must not be " affected," though the recipe is not to be 
had; must beware of " over-excitation of the colour 
sense." In slow course of years we acquire a way of 
expression, hopelessly inadequate, as we plainly see when 



THE SOUTH COUNTRY 7 

looking at the methods of great poets, of beautiful women, 
of athletes, of politicians, but still gradually as fitted to 
the mind as an old walking-stick to the hand that has 
worn and been worn by it, full of our weakness as of our 
strength, of our blindness as of our vision — the man him- 
self, the poor man it may be. And I live by writing, 
since it is impossible to live by not writing in an age not 
of gold but of brass. 

Unlearned, incurious, but finding deepest ease and joy 
out of doors, I have gone about the South Country these 
twenty years and more on foot, especially in Kent 
between Maidstone and Ash ford and round Penshurst, 
in Surrey between London, Guildford and Horley, in 
Hampshire round Petersfield, in Wiltshire between 
Wootton Bassett, Swindon and Savernake. The people 
are almost foreign to me, the more so because country 
people have not yet been thrown into quite the same 
confusion as townspeople, and therefore look awk- 
wardly upon those who are not in trade — writing is an 
unskilled labour and not a trade — not on the land, 
and not idle. But I have known something of two or 
three men and women, and have met a few dozen more. 
Yet is this country, though I am mainly Welsh, a kind 
of home, as I think it is more than any other to those 
modern people who belong nowhere. Here they prefer 
to retire, here they take their holidays in multitudes. For 
it is a good foster-mother, ample-bosomed, mild and 
homely. The lands of wild coast, of mountains, of 
myriad chimneys, offer no such welcome. They have 
their race, their speech and ways, and are jealous. You 
must be a man of the sea or of the hills to dwell there at 



8 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

ease. But the South is tender and will harbour any one; 
her quiet people resent intrusion quietly, so that many 
do not notice the resentment. These are the " home " 
counties. A man can hide away in them. The people 
are not hospitable, but the land is. 

Yet there are days and places which send us in search 
of another kind of felicity than that which dwells under 
the Downs, when, for example, the dark wild of Ash- 
down or of Woolmer, some parcel of heathery land, with 
tufted pines and pale wandering roads, rises all dark and 
stormy out of the gentle vale, or on such an evening as 
when the sky is solemn blue save at the horizon where it 
is faint gold, and between the blue and the gold, across the 
north-west, lies an ashen waste of level cloud. This sky 
and its new moon and evening star below, is barred by 
the boles of beeches; through them the undulations of 
deserted ploughland are all but white with dewy grass 
and weed. Underfoot winds a disused path amid almost 
overlapping dog's mercury. The earth is like an 
exhausted cinder, cold, silent, dead, compared with the 
great act in the sky. Suddenly a dog-fox barks — with 
melancholy and malice in the repeated hoarse yells — a 
sound that awakens the wildest past out of the wood and 
the old path. He passes by me at a trot, pausing a little 
to bark. He vanishes, but not his voice, into the wood, 
and he returns, still barking, and passes me again, filling 
the wood and the coombe below with a sound that has 
nothing to match it except that ashen waste in the beech- 
barred, cold blue and golden sky, against which the fox 
is carved in moving ebony. Or again, when a rude dark 
headland rises out of the mist of the plain into the evening 



THE SOUTH COUNTRY 9 

sky. The woods seem but just freed from the horror of 
primeval sea, if that is not primeval sea washing their 
bases. Capella hangs low, pale, large, moist and trembling, 
almost engulfed between two horns of the wood upon the 
headland, the frailest beacon of hope, still fluttering from 
the storm out of which the land is emerging. Then, or 
at home looking at a map of Britain, the West calls, out 
of Wiltshire and out of Cornwall and Devon beyond, 
out of Monmouth and Glamorgan and Gower and Caer- 
marthen, with a voice of dead Townsends, Eastaways, 
Thomases, Phillipses, Treharnes, Marendaz, sea men and 
mountain men. 

Westward, for men of this island, lies the sea; west- 
ward are the great hills. In a mere map the west of 
Britain is fascinating. The great features of that map, 
which make it something more than a picture to be 
imperfectly copied by laborious childish pens, are the 
great promontories of Caernarvon, of Pembroke, of Gower 
and of Cornwall, jutting out into the western sea, like 
the features of a grim large face, such a face as is carved 
on a ship's prow. These protruding features, even on a 
small-scale map, thrill the mind with a sense of purpose 
and spirit. They yearn, they peer out ever to the sea, 
as if using eyes and nostrils to savour the utmost scent of 
it, as if themselves calling back to the call of the waves. 
To the eyes of a child they stand for adventure. They 
are lean and worn and scarred with the strife and watch- 
ing. Then gradually into the mind of the child comes 
the story that justifies and, still more, inspires and seems 
to explain those westward-pointing promontories. For, 
out towards them continually have the conquered races 



10 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

of the world retreated, and their settlements give those 
corners a strangeness and a charm to our fantastic sym- 
pathies. Out from them conquerors in their turn have 
gone to found a legend like the Welsh Madoc, an empire 
like the men of Devon. The blood of conquered and 
conqueror is in our veins, and it flushes the cheek at the 
sight or thought of the w^est. Each man of us is as 
ancient and complicated, as lofty-spired and as deep- 
vaulted as cathedrals and castles old, and in those lands 
our crypts and dark foundations are dimly remembered. 
We look out to Vizards them from the high camps at 
Battlesbury and Barbury : the lines of the Downs go 
trooping along to them at night. Even in the bosom of 
the South Country, when the tranquil bells are calling 
over the corn at twilight, the westward-going hills, where 
the sun has fallen, draw the heart away and fill us with 
a desire to go on and on for ever, that same way. When, 
in the clear windy dawn, thin clouds like traveller's joy 
are upon the high air, it seems that up there also, in 
those placid spaces, they travel and know the joy of the 
road, and the sun — feeding on the blue, as a child said 
yesterday, as Lucretius said before — goes the desired way. 
London also calls, making the needle whirl in the 
compass. For in London also a man may live as up "a 
great river wide as any sea "; and over some of the fairest 
of the South Country hangs the all-night glimmer of the 
city, warning, threatening, beckoning anon. Some of this 
country has already perished, or is so ramparted about that 
there is no stranger country in the world unless it be 
those perpendicular valleys cloven among the Blue Moun- 
tains, their floors level and of the purest grass, but access- 



THE SOUTH COUNTRY ii 

ible only at the end nearest the plain, where the cleft is 
sometimes so narrow that not even a dog can enter. 

This, then, is my South Country. It covers the North 
Downs and the South Downs, the Icknield Way and the 
Pilgrims' Way, and the cross-roads between them and the 
Thames and the sea, a land of hops, fruit, corn, high 
pasture, meadow, woodland, heath and shore. But there 
is no man of whose powers I stand more in awe than the 
topographical writer, from Mr. A. G. Bradley or Mr. 
E. V. Lucas downwards. I shall not attempt to compete 
with them. I should only be showing my ignorance and 
carelessness were I to label every piece of country which 
I chance to mention or describe. Any one can point out 
my omissions, my blindness, my exaggeration. Nor can 
I bring myself to mention the names of the places where 
I walked or sat down. In a sense this country is all 
" carved out of the carver's brain " and has not a name. 
This is not the South Country which measures about two 
hundred miles from east to west and fifty from north to 
south. In some ways it is incomparably larger than any 
country that was ever mapped, since upon nothing less 
than the infinite can the spirit disport itself. In other 
ways it is far smaller — as when a mountain with tracts of 
sky and cloud and the full moon glass themselves in a 
pond, a little pond. 

It would need a more intellectual eye than mine to 
distinguish county from county by its physical character, 
its architecture, its people, its unique combination of 
common elements, and I shall not attempt it. As often 
as not I have no doubt mingled parts of Kent with my 
Wiltshire, and so on. And positively I cannot say to 



12 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

which belongs one picture that occurs to me as character- 
istic of the South Country — 

A crossing of roads encloses a waste place of no man's 
land, of dwarf oaks, hawthorn, bramble and fern, and 
the flowers of knapweed and harebell, and golden tor- 
mentil embroidering the heather and the minute seedling 
oaks. Follow one of these roads past straight avenues of 
elms leading up to a farm (built square of stone, under a 
roof of thatch or stone slate, and lying well back from 
the road across a level meadow with some willows in the 
midst, elms round about, willow herb waving rosy by the 
stream at the border), or merely to a cluster of ricks; and 
presently the hedges open wide apart and the level white 
road cools itself under the many trees of a green, wych 
elms, sycamores, limes and horse-chestnuts, by a pool, and, 
on the other side, the sign of the " White Hart," its 
horns held back upon its haunches. A stone-built farm 
and its barns and sheds lie close to the green on either 
side, and another of more stateliness where the hedges 
once more run close together alongside the road. This 
farmhouse has three dormers, two rows of five shadowy 
windows below, and an ivied porch not quite in the 
centre; a modest lawn divided by a straight path; dense, 
well-watered borders of grey lavender, rosemary, ladslove, 
halberds of crimson hollyhock, infinite blending stars of 
Michaelmas daisy; old apple trees seeming to be pulled 
down almost to the grass by glossy-rinded fruit : and, 
behind, the bended line of hills a league away, wedding 
the lowly meadows, the house and the trees to the large 
heavens and their white procession of clouds out of the 
south and the sea. The utmost kindliness of earth is 



THE SOUTH COUNTRY 13 

expressed in these three houses, the trees on the flat green, 
the slightly curving road across it, the uneven posts and 
rails leaning this way and that at the edge of the pond. 
The trees are so arranged about the road that they weave 
a harmony of welcome, of blessing, a viaticum for 
whosoever passes by and only for a moment tastes their 
shade, acknowledges unconsciously their attitudes, hears 
their dry summer murmuring, sees the house behind 
them. The wayfarer knows nothing of those who built 
them and those who live therein, of those who planted 
the trees just so and not otherwise, of the causes that 
shaped the green, any more than of those who reaped and 
threshed the barley, and picked and dried and packed the 
hops that made the ale at the "White Hart." He only 
knows that centuries of peace and hard work and plan- 
ning for the undreaded future have made it possible. The 
spirit of the place, all this council of time and Nature and 
men, enriches the air with a bloom deeper than summer's 
blue of distance; it drowses while it delights the respond- 
ing mind with a magic such as once upon a time men 
thought to express by gods of the hearth, by Faunus and 
the flying nymphs, by fairies, angels, saints, a magic 
which none of these things is too strange and "super- 
natural " to represent. For after the longest inventory 
of what is here visible and open to analysis, much remains 
over, imponderable but mighty. Often when the lark is 
high he seems to be singing in some keyless chamber of 
the brain; so here the house is built in shadowy replica. 
If only we could make a graven image of this spirit 
instead of a muddy untruthful reflection of words ! I have 
sometimes thought that a statue, the statue of a human 



14 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

or heroic or divine figure, might more fitly than in many 
another stand in such a place. A figure, it should be, 
like that benign proud Demeter in marble now banished 
to a recess in a cold gallery, before which a man of any re- 
ligion, or class, or race, or time might bow and lay down 
something of his burden and take away what makes him 
other than he was. She would be at home and blithe 
again, enshrined in the rain or in this flowery sunlight of 
an English green, near the wych elm and sycamore and 
the walls of stone, the mortar mixed, as in all true 
buildings, with human blood. 



CHAPTER II 

THE END OF WINTER SUFFOLK HAMPSHIRE 

SUFFOLK. 

There are three sounds in the wood this morning — 

the sound of the waves that has not died away since the 

sea carried off church and cottage and cliff and the other 

half of what was once an inland wood; the sound of 

rees, a multitudinous frenzied sound, of rustling dead 

ik-leaves still on the bough, of others tripping along the 

>ath like mice, or winding up in sudden spirals and falling 

igain, of dead boughs grating and grinding, of pliant 

young branches lashing, of finest twigs and fir needles 

sighing, of leaf and branch and trunk booming like one; 

and through these sounds, the song of a thrush. Rain 

falls and, for a moment only, the dyked marshland below 

and beyond the wood is pale and luminous with its flooded 

pools, the sails of windmills climb and plunge, the pale 

sea is barred with swathes of foam, and on the whistling 

sands the tall white waves vaunt, lean forward, topple 

and lie quivering. But the rain increases : the sound and 

the mist of it make a wall about the world, except the 

world in the brain and except the thrush's song which, 

so bright and clear, has a kind of humanity in it by 

contrast with the huge bulk of the noises of sea and wood. 

Rain and wind cease together, and here on the short 

grass at the cliff's edge is a strange birth — a gently convex 

fungus about two inches broad, the central boss of it 

15 



1 6 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

faintly indented, the surface not perfectly regular but 
dimpled so as to break the light, and the edge wavering 
away from the pure circular form; in hue a pale chestnut 
paling to a transparent edge of honey colour; and the 
whole surface so smooth and polished by rain as to seem 
coated in ice. What a thought for the great earth on 
such a day! Out of the wood on to this grass the 
thrushes steal, running with heads down and stopping 
with heads prouder than stags'; out also into the short 
corn; and so glad are they that they quarrel and sing on 
the ground without troubling to find a perch. 

It is perfectly still; the sun splutters out of the thick 
grey and white sky, the white sails shine on a sea of 
steel, and it is warm. And now in the luxury of the first 
humid warmth and quiet of the year the blackbird sings. 
The rain sets in at nightfall, but the wind does not blow, 
and still the blackbird sings and the thrushes will hardly 
leave the corn. That one song alone sweetens the wide 
vague country of evening, the cloudy oak woods, the 
brown mixen under the elms and the little white farm 
behind the unpruned limes, with its oblong windows 
irregularly placed and of unequal size, its white door 
almost at a corner, and the lawn coming right to the 
walls. 

Day breaks and sun and wind dance together in the 
clouds and trees, but without rain. Larks sing over the 
dark heavy cornland in which the watery furrows shine. 
The dead drab grasses wave at the feet of the hedgerows. 
Little pools at meadow corners bring down the sky to 
the dark earth. Horses nod before the plough. A slight 
haze exhales from the innumerable rich spongy clods. 



THE END OF WINTER 17 

between the hedges of oak and ash. Now and then 
shapeless rags of white or snow-grey clouds wander up 
from the west and for a h'ttle while obscure the white 
mountains of cloud, the blue sky, the silver sun; or the 
sweet smoke from the fires of hedgers and ditchers rises 
up against the edge of a copse. The white linen flaps 
and glows in cottage gardens; the dung carts go by 
crunching the flints into the mud; and the hoofs and bells 
of pony traps make a music forgotten since last February. 
It is only the twenty-second day of February, yet these 
delights of the soul through the eyes and ears are of 
spring. The children have begun to look for violets, and 
the youngest, being the nearest to them in stature and in 
nature, has found one. There she stands, four years old, 
with straight brown legs, her face clear and soft but 
brown as a new hazel nut, her hair almost of the same 
colour and paler where the sun has bleached it round 
her temples and falling over her cheeks and neck; and 
through it shine eyes of a deeper brown, the hue of the 
most exquisite flints. The eyes shine, the teeth shine 
through the ever parted long red lips, the chin shines, 
the brow shines most of all with a lustre that seems to 
come from the joyous brain behind. 

She is beautiful and straight as the July corn, as the 
ash tree standing alone by the stream. She is fearless as 
fire, bold and restless as wind, clear-hearted, simple, bright 
and gay as a mountain water, in all her actions a daughter 
of the sun, the wind and the earth. She has loving looks 
for all. From her fair broad naked foot to her gleaming 
hair she is, to many, the dearest thing that lives. 

Beside her plays a dog, with lifted ears, head on one 
c 



1 8 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

side, rosy tongue bright against his yellow fur, waiting 
upon her fancies. His rest and his motion, like hers, are 
careless and beautiful, gifts of the sun, the wind and the 
earth. As I look at them I think of such a child and 
such a playmate that lived two thousand years ago in 
the sun, and once as they played each set a foot upon the 
soft clay of a tile that the tile maker had not yet burned 
hard and red. The tile fell in the ruin of a Roman city 
in Britain, was buried hundreds of years in ashes and 
flowering mould, and yesterday I saw the footprints in 
the dark red tile, two thousand years old. 

A day follows of rain and wind, and it is the robin 
that is most heard among the dripping thorns, the robin 
and his autumnal voice. But the sky clears for sunset and 
the blackbird's hour, and, as twilight ends, only the rear 
of the disappearing procession of day cloud is visible on 
the western horizon, while the procession of niglit has 
but sent up two or three dark forerunners. The sky is of 
palest blue, and Jupiter and Sirius are bright over the sea, 
Venus over the land and Mercury just over the far oaks. 
The sea is very dark except at the horizon which is pale 
with the dissolving remnant of sunset gold in it; but two 
ranks of breakers throw up a waving vapour of fairy 
foam against the dark waves behind. 

Again there are roaring wet mornings and sunlit morn- 
ings, but in them all the pewits wheel over the marsh and 
their wild cries mingle with the sweet whimper of dun- 
lins, the songs of larks, the glitter of the dykes, the wall 
of rain. All day the sky over heathery moorland is like 
a reduplication of the moorland, except that at the 
horizon the sky clears at intervals and fleets of pure white 



THE END OF WINTER 19 

cloud sail over the dark ploughland and green pines; and 
the gentle sea is white only where the waves break on the 
sand like a line of children in white frocks advancing 
with wavers in the game of "Here we come gathering 
nuts and may." Or the west is angry, thick and grey, 
the snow is horizontal and fierce, and yet the south has a 
bay of blue sky and in it a vast sunlit precipice of white 
cloud, and the missel thrushes roll out their songs again 
and again at the edges of many woods. Or a sun appears 
that brings out the songs of thrush and chaffinch and lark, 
and leaves a chequer of snow on pine and ploughland 
and on the mole hills of the meadows. Again the sun 
disappears and the swift heavy hail rebounds on the grass 
with a dancing as of sand-hoppers, and there is no other 
sound except a sudden hedgesparrow's song to break in 
upon the beating of the pellets on hard ivy and holly and 
tender grass. In the frosty evening the first moth comes 
to the lamp. 

Now the rain falls rejoicing in its power, and then the 
sky is sunny and the white clouds are bubble-shaped in 
the blue, the wet roads are azure with reflected sky, 
the trees are all of crystal, and the songs of thrushes can 
be heard even through the snorting and rumbling of a 
train. 



HAMPSHIRE 

The beeches on the beech-covered hills roar and strain 
as if they would fly off with the hill, and anon they are 
as meek as a great horse leaning his head over a gate. 
If there is a misty day there is one willow in a coombe 

C2 



20 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

lifting up a thousand silver catkins like a thousand lamps, 
when there is no light elsewhere. Another day, a wide 
and windy day, is the jackdaw's, and he goes straight 
and swift and high like a joyous rider crying aloud on an 
endless savannah, and, underneath, the rippled pond is as 
bright as a peacock, and millions of beech leaves drive 
across the open glades of the woods, rushing to their 
Acheron. The bush harrow stripes the moist and shining 
grass; the plough changes the pale stubble into a ridgy 
chocolate; they are peeling the young ash sticks for hop 
poles and dipping them in tar. At the dying of that 
windy day the wind is still; there is a bright pale half- 
moon tangled in the pink whirl of after-sunset cloud, 
a sound of blackbirds from pollard oaks against the silver 
sky, a sound of bells from hamlets hidden among 
beeches. 

Towards the end of March there are six nights of frost 
giving birth to still mornings of weak sunlight, of an 
opaque yet not definitely misty air. The sky is of a 
milky, uncertain pale blue without one cloud. Eastward 
the hooded sun is warming the slope fields and melting 
the sparkling frost. In many trees the woodpeckers 
laugh so often that their cry is a song. A grassy ancient 
orchard has taken possession of the visible sunbeams, and 
the green and gold of the mistletoe glows on the 
silvered and mossy branches of apple trees. The pale 
stubble is yellow and tenderly lit, and gives the low hills 
a hollow light appearance as if they might presently 
dissolve. In a hundred tiers on the steep hill, the 
uncounted perpendicular straight stems of beech, and yet 
not all quite perpendicular or quite straight, are silver- 



THE END OF WINTER 21 

grey in the midst of a haze, here brown, there rosy, of 
branches and swelh'ng buds. Though but a quarter of a 
mile away in this faintly clouded air they are very small, 
aerial in substance, infinitely remote from the road on 
which I stand, and more like reflections in calm water 
than real things. 

At the lower margin of the wood the overhanging 
branches form blue caves, and out of these emerge the 
songs of many hidden birds. I know that there are bland 
melodious blackbirds of easy musing voices, robins whose 
earnest song, though full of passion, is but a fragment that 
has burst through a more passionate silence, hedge- 
sparrows of liquid confiding monotone, brisk acid wrens, 
chaffinches and yellowhammers saying always the same 
thing (a dear but courtly praise of the coming season), 
larks building spires above spires into the sky, thrushes of 
infinite variety that talk and talk of a thousand things, 
never thinking, always talking of the moment, exclaim- 
ing, scolding, cheering, flattering, coaxing, challenging, 
with merry-hearted, bold voices that must have been the 
same in the morning of the world when the forest trees 
lay, or leaned, or hung, where they fell. Yet I can 
distinguish neither blackbird, nor robin, nor hedge- 
sparrow, nor any one voice. All are blent into one seeth- 
ing stream of song. It is one song, not many. It is one 
spirit that sings. Mixed with them is the myriad stir of 
unborn things, of leaf and blade and flower, many silences 
at heart and root of tree, voices of hope and growth, of 
love that will be satisfied though it leap upon the swords 
of life. Yet not during all the day does the earth truly 
awaken. Even in town and city the dream prevails, and 



22 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

only dimly lighted their chalky towers and spires rise out 
of the sweet mist and sing together beside the waters. 

The earth lies blinking, turning over languidly and 
talking like a half-awakened child that now and then 
lies still and sleeps though with eyes wide open. The 
air is still full of the dreams of a night which this mild 
sun cannot dispel. The dreams are prophetic as well as 
reminiscent, and are visiting the woods, and that is why 
they will not cast aside the veil. Who would rise if he 
could continue to dream ? 

It is not spring yet. Spring is being dreamed, and the 
dream is more wonderful and more blessed than ever was 
spring. What the hour of waking will bring forth is not 
known. Catch at the dreams as they hover in the warm 
thick air. Up against the grey tiers of beech stems and 
the mist of the buds and fallen leaves rise two columns 
of blue smoke from two white cottages among trees; 
they rise perfectly straight and then expand into a 
balanced cloud, and thus make and unmake continually 
two trees of smoke. No sound comes from the cottages. 
The dreams are over them, over the brows of the children 
and the babes, of the men and the women, bringing great 
gifts, suggestions, shadowy satisfactions, consolations, 
hopes. With inward voices of persuasion those dreams 
hover and say that all is to be made new, that all is 
yet before us, and the lots are not yet drawn out of 
the urn. 

We shall presently set out and sail into the undiscovered 
seas and find new islands of the free, the beautiful, the 
young. As is the dimly glimmering changeless brook 
twittering over the pebbles, so is life. It is but just leaving 



THE END OF WINTER 23 

the fount. AH things are possible in the windings 
between fount and sea. 

Never again shall we demand the cuckoo's song from 
the August silence. Never will July nip the spring and 
lengthen the lambs' faces and take away their piquancy, 
or June shut a gate between us and the nightingale, or 
May deny the promise of April. Hark ! before the end of 
afternoon the owls hoot in their sleep in the ivied beeches. 
A dream has flitted past them, more silent of wing than 
themselves. Now it is between the wings of the first 
white butterfly, and it plants a smile in the face of the 
infant that cannot speak : and again it is with the brim- 
stone butterfly, and the child who is gathering celandine 
and cuckoo flower and violet starts back almost in fear 
at the dream. 

The grandmother sitting in her daughter's house, left 
all alone in silence, her hands clasped upon her knees, 
forgets the courage without hope that has carried her 
through eighty years, opens her eyes, unclasps her hands 
from the knot as of stiff rope, distends them and feels 
the air, and the dream is between her fingers and she too 
smiles, she knows not why. A girl of sixteen, ill-dressed, 
not pretty, has seen it also. She has tied up her black 
hair in a new crimson ribbon. She laughs aloud with a 
companion at something they know in common and in 
secret, and as she does so lifts her neck and is glad from 
the sole of her foot to the crown of her head. She is 
lost in her laughter and oblivious of its cause. She walks 
away, and her step is as firm as that of a ewe defending 
her lamb. She was a poor and misused child, and I can 
see her as a woman of fifty, sitting on a London bench, 



24 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

grey-complexfoncd, in old black hat, black clothes, crouch- 
ing over a paper bag of fragments, in the beautiful August 
rain after heat. But this is her hour. That future is 
not among the dreams in the air to-day. She is at one 
with the world, and a deep music grows between her and 
the stars. Her smile is one of those magical things, 
great and small and all divine, that have the power to 
wield universal harmonies. At sight or sound of them 
the infinite variety of appearances in the world is made 
fairer than before, because it is shown to be a many- 
coloured raiment of the one. The raiment trembles, and 
under leaf and cloud and air a window is thrown open 
upon the unfathomable deep, and at the window we are 
sitting, watching the flight of our souls away, away to 
where they must be gathered into the music that is being 
built. Often upon the vast and silent twilight, as now, 
is the soul poured out as a rivulet into the sea and lost, not 
able even to stain the boundless crystal of the air; and the 
body stands empty, waiting for its return, and, poor thing, 
knows not what it receives back into itself when the night 
is dark and it moves away. For we stand ever at the 
edge of Eternity and fall in many times before we die. 
Yet even such thoughts live not long this day. All shall 
be healed, says the dream. All shall be made new. The 
day is a fairy birth, a foundling not fathered nor mothered 
by any grey yesterdays. It has inherited nothing. It 
makes of winter and of the old springs that wrought 
nothing fair a stale creed, a senseless tale : they are 
naught : I do not wonder any longer if the lark's song 
has grown old with the ears that hear it or if it be still 
unchanged. 



THE END OF WINTER 25 

What dreams are there for that aged child who goes 
tottering and reeling up the lane at mid-day ? He carries 
a basket of watercress on his back. He has sold two- 
pennyworth, and he is tipsy, grinning through the 
bruises of a tipsy fall, and shifting his cold pipe from one 
side of his mouth to the other. Though hardly sixty he 
is very old, worn and thin and wrinkled, and bent side- 
ways and forward at the waist and the shoulders. Yet he 
is very young. He is just what he was forty years ago 
when the thatcher found him lying on his back in the sun 
instead of combing out the straw and sprinkling it with 
water for his use. He laid no plans as a youth; he had 
only a few transparent tricks and easy lies. Never has 
he thought of the day after to-morrow. For a few years 
in his prime he worked almost regularly for one or two 
masters, leaving them only now and then upon long 
errands of his own and known only to himself. It was 
then perhaps that he earned or received as a gift, along 
with a broken nose, his one name, which is Jackalone. 
For years he was the irresponsible jester to a smug town- 
let which was privately amused and publicly scandalized, 
and rewarded him in a gaol, where, unlike Tasso, he never 
complained. Since then he has lived by the sale of a chance 
rabbit or two, of watercress, of greens gathered when the 
frost is on them and nobody looking, by gifts of broken 
victuals, by driving a few bullocks to a fair, by casual 
shelter in barns, in roofless cottages, or under hedges. 

He has never had father or mother or brother or sister 
or wife or child. No dead leaf in autumn wind or 
branch in flooded brook seems more helpless. He can 
deceive nqbody. He is in prison two or three times a 



26 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

year for little things : it seems a charity to put a roof 
over his head and clip his hair. He has no wisdom; by 
nothing has he soiled what gifts were given to him at his 
birth. The dreams will not pass him by. They come 
to give him that confidence by which he lives in spite of 
men's and children's contumely. 

How little do we know of the business of the earth, 
not to speak of the universe; of time, not to speak of 
eternity. It was not by taking thought that man survived 
the mastodon. The acts and thoughts that will serve the 
race, that will profit this commonwealth of things that 
live in the sun, the air, the earth, the sea, now and 
through all time, are not known and never will be known. 
The rumour of much toil and scheming and triumph 
may never reach the stars, and what we value not at all, 
are not conscious of, may break the surface of eternity 
with endless ripples of good. We know not by what we 
survive. There is much philosophy in that Irish tale 
of the poor blind woman who recovered her sight at St. 
Brigit's well. " Did I say more prayers than the rest ? 
Not a prayer. I was young in those days. I suppose 
she took a liking to me, maybe because of my name being 
Brigit the same as her own." ^ Others went unrelieved 
away that day. We are as ignorant still. Hence the 
batlike fears about immortality. We wish to prolong 
what we can see and touch and talk of, and knowing that 
clothes and flesh and other perishing things may not pass 
over the borders of death with us, we give up all, as if 
forsooth the undertaker and the gravedigger had arch- 

^ A Book of Saints and IVonders, by Lady Gregory^ 



THE END OF WINTER 27 

angelic functions. Along with the undertaker and the 
gravedigger ranks the historian and others who seem to 
bestow immortality. Each is like a child planting flowers 
severed from their stalks and roots, expecting them to 
grow. I never heard that the butterfly loved the chrysalis; 
but I am sure that the caterpillar looks forward to an 
endless day of eating green leaves and of continually 
swelling until it would despise a consummation of the 
size of a railway train. We can do the work of the 
universe though we shed friends and country and house 
and clothes and flesh, and become invisible to mortal eyes 
and microscopes. We do it now invisibly, and it is not 
these things which are us at all. That maid walking so 
proudly is about the business of eternity. 

And yet it would be vain to pretend not to care about 
the visible many-coloured raiment of which our houses, 
our ships, our gardens, our books are part, since they also 
have their immortal selves and their everlasting place, 
else should we not love them with more than sight and 
hearing and touch. For flesh loves flesh and soul loves 
soul. Yet on this March day the supreme felicity is born 
of the two loves, so closely interwoven that it is permitted 
to forget the boundaries of the two, and for soul to love 
flesh and flesh to love soul. And this ancient child is rid 
of his dishonours and flits through the land floating on a 
thin reed of the immortal laughter. This is " not alto- 
gether fool." He is perchance playing some large 
necessary part in the pattern woven by earth that draws 
the gods to lean forward out of the heavens to watch the 
play and say of him, as of other men, of birds, of flowers : 
" They also are of our company." ... 



/28 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

In the warm rain of the next day the chiffchaff sings 
among the rosy blossoms of the leafless larches, a small 
voice that yet reaches from the valley to the high hill. 
It is a double, many times repeated note that foretells the 
cuckoo's. In the evening the songs are bold and full, but 
the stems of the beeches are faint as soft columns of 
smoke and the columns of smoke from the cottages are 
like them in the still air. 

Yet another frost follows, and in the dim golden light 
just after sunrise the shadows of all the beeches lie on 
the slopes, dark and more tangible than the trees, as if 
they were the real and those standing upright were the 
returned spirits above the dead. 

Now rain falls and relents and falls again all day, and 
the earth is hidden under it, and as from a land submerged 
the songs mount through the veil. The mists waver out 
of the beeches like pufis of smoke or hang upon them 
or in them like fleeces caught in thorns : in the just pene- 
trating sunlight the long boles of the beeches shine, and 
the chaffinch, the yellowhammer and the cirl bunting 
sing songs of blissful drowsiness. The Downs, not yef: 
green, rise far off and look, through the rain, like old 
thatched houses. 

When a hot sun has dried the woods the wind beats a 
cloud of pollen like grey smoke from the yews on the 
beechen coombes which are characteristic of Hampshire. 
They are steep-sided bays, running and narrowing far 
into and up the sides of the chalk hills, and especially 
of those hills with which the high flinty plateau breaks 
down to the greensand and the plain. These steep sides 
are clothed with beeches, thousands of beeches interrupted 



THE END OF WINTER 29 

by the black yews that resemble caverns among the paler 
trees, or, in the spring, by the green haze of a few larches 
and the white flames of the beam tree buds. Sometimes 
a stream rises at the head of the coombe, and before its 
crystal is a yard wide and ankle deep over the crumbling 
chalk it is full of trout; the sunny ripples are meshed like 
honeycomb. If there is not a stream there is a hop 
garden, or there is a grassy floor approached by neither 
road nor path and crossed only by huntsman and hounds. 
All the year round the coombes, dripping, green and still, 
are cauldrons for the making and unmaking of mists, 
mists that lie like solid level snow or float diaphanous 
and horizontal of airiest silk across the moon or the 
morning sun. The coombes breed whole families, long 
genealogical trees, of echoes which the child delights to 
call up from their light sleep; so, too, do fox and owl at 
night, and the cow on a calm evening; and as to the horn 
and the cry of hounds, the hangers entangle and repeat 
them as if they would imprison them for ever, so that the 
phantom exceeds the true. This is the home of the 
orchises and of the daintiest snails. In spring, yellow and 
white and yellowish green flowers are before all the rest 
under the beeches — the flowers of the golden green saxi- 
frage and delicate moschatel, the spurge and the spurge 
laurel, the hellebore, the white violet and wood sorrel, 
and the saffron-hearted primrose which becomes greenish 
in the light of its own leaves; to these must be added the 
yellow green of young foliage and of moss. Fairest of all 
the white flowers is the frost flower that grows about 
some rotten fallen branch day after day in curls that are 
beyond silk, or a child's hair, or wool when it is first 



30 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

exposed to the sun by the shearer's hand. Most con- 
spicuous of the early green is that of the pale swords of 
sedge that bear purple brown feathers of flower at the 
end of March. The crystal wavering water, the pale 
green stems and ever so slightly curving blades, and the 
dark bloom, make the sense smart with joy. Never was 
ivy more luxuriant under the beeches, nor moss so power- 
ful as where it arrays them from crown to pedestal. The 
lichens, fine grey-green bushy lichens on the thorns, are 
as dense as if a tide full of them had swept through the 
coombe. From the topmost branches hangs the cordage 
of ivy and honeysuckle and clematis. The missel thrush 
rolls out his clear song. The woodpecker laughs his loud 
shaking laughter as he bounds in his flight. Among the 
golden green mistletoe in the old shaggy apple tree at the 
entrance of the coombe the blackbird sings, composing 
phrases all the sweeter for being strangely like some in 
the songs that countrymen used to sing. Earth has no 
dearer voice than his when it is among the chilly rain at 
the end of the light. All day there have been blue skies 
and parading white clouds, and no wind, with sudden 
invasions of violent wind and hail or rain, followed by 
perfected calm and warmer sun — sun which lures the 
earliest tortoise-shell butterfly to alight on the footworn 
flints in the path up the coombe. At last the sky seems 
securely blue above the hangers and a clear small star 
or two pricks through it. But, emerging from the coombe, 
whose sides shut out half the heavens, you see that the 
west has wonderfully ordered and dressed itself with pale 
sky and precipitous, dark, modelled clouds and vague 
woods, and above them the new moon. The blackbirds 



THE END OF WINTER 31 

sing, the dim Downs proceed, and the last shower's drops 
gh'tter on the black boughs and pallid primroses. Why 
should this ever change? At the time it seems that it 
can never change. A wide harmony of the brain and 
the earth and the sky has begun, when suddenly darker 
clouds are felt to have ascended out of the north-west and 
to have covered the world. The beeches roar with rain. 
Moon and Downs are lost. The road bubbles and glows 
underfoot. A distant blackbird still sings hidden in the 
bosom of the rain like an enchanter hidden by his 
spells. . . . 

It is April now, and when it is still dark in the woods 
and hedges the birds all sing together and the maze of 
song is dominated by the owl's hoot — like a full moon of 
sound above myriad rippling noises. Every day a new 
invader takes possession of the land. The wryneck is 
loud and persistent, never in harmony with other birds, a 
complete foreigner, and yet the ear is glad of his coming. 
He is heard first, not in the early morning, along a grove 
of oaks; and the whole day is his. 

Then on every hand the gentle willow wrens flit and 
sing in the purple ash blossoms. The martins, the 
swallows, have each a day. One day, too, is the mag- 
pie's : for he sits low near his mate in a thicket and 
chatters not aloud but low and tenderly, almost like the 
sedgewarbler, adding a faint plaintive note like the bull- 
finch's, and fragments as of the linnet's song, and chirrup- 
ings; disturbed, he flies away with chatter as hoarse as 
ever. 

The rooks reign several days. They have a colony in 
a compact small oval beech wood that stands in a hollow 



32 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

amidst dry grey ploughland; and from the foxy-red 
summits of the trees, in the most genial hot day, their 
cawings are loud and mellow and warm as if they were 
the earth's own voice; and all the while the dew is sliding 
along the branches, dropping into other drops or to the 
ground as the birds flutter at their nests, and from time 
to time one triple drop catches the sun and throbs where 
it hangs like Hesperus among the small stars. 

And every tender eve is the blackbird's. He sings out 
at the end of the long bare ash bough. Beneath him the 
gloomy crystal water stirs the bronze cresses, and on the 
banks the white anemones float above the dark misty 
earth and under the hazel leaves yet drooping in their 
infancy. The dark hollies catch the last light and shine 
like water. Behind all, the Downs are clear and so near 
that I feel as well as see the carving on their smooth and 
already green flanks. The blackbird gathers up all the 
low-lit beauty into one carol. 

The flowers also have days to themselves, as the minute 
green moschatel when it is first found among the hedge- 
row roots, or the violets when, white and pale purple, 
they are smelt and then seen bowed with dew in the 
weedy sainfoin field which the chain harrow passed over 
but a few days before. Another notable day is when the 
junipers are perfectly coloured by their sloe-blue, or palest 
green, but chiefly grey, small berries. Another, a very 
great day, belongs to the willows, when their crowded 
fragrant catkins are yellow against the burning blue and 
all murmurous with bees. And the briers have their day 
when their green is a vivid flame in a gloomy air, against 
a dark immense wood and sepia sky. There is, too, a 



THE END OF WINTER 33 

solitary maimed sycamore in one of the coombes that has 
a glorious hour when ft stands yellow-green in separate 
masses of half-opened leaf, motionless and languid 
in the first joy of commerce with the blue air, yet 
glowing. 

One morning, very early, when the moon has not set 
and all the fields are cold and dewy and the woods are 
still massed and harbouring the night, though a few 
thorns stand out from their edge in affrighted virgin 
green, and dim starry thickets sigh a moment and are still, 
suddenly the silence of the chalky lane is riven and 
changed into a song. First, it is a fierce impetuous down- 
fall of one clear note repeated rapidly and ending wilfully 
in mid-burst. Then it is a full-brimmed expectant 
silence passing into a long ascendant wail, and almost with- 
out intervals another and another, which has hardly ceased 
when it is dashed out of the memory by the downpour of 
those rapidly repeated notes, their abrupt end and the 
succeeding silence. The swift notes are each as rounded 
and as full of liquid sweetness as a grape, and they are 
clustered like the grape. But they are wild and pure as 
mountain water in the dawn. They are also like steel 
for coldness and penetration. And their onset is like 
nothing else : it is the nightingale's. The long wail is 
like a shooting star : even as that grows out of the dark- 
ness and draws a silver line and is no more, so this glides 
out of the silence and curves and is no more. And yet 
it does not die, nor does that liquid onset. They and 
their ghosts people each hanging leaf in the hazel thicket 
so that the silence is closely stored. Other notes are shut 
in the pink anemone, in the white stitchwort under and 

D 



y 



34 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

about the hazels, and in the drops of dew that begin to 
gh'tter in the dawn. 

Beautiful as the notes are for their quality and order, it 
is their inhumanity that gives them their utmost fascina- 
tion, the mysterious sense which they bear to us that 
earth is something more than a human estate, that there 
are things not human yet of great honour and power in 
the world. The very first rush and the following wail 
empty the brain of what is merely human and leave only 
what is related to the height and depth of the whole 
world. Here for this hour we are remote from the 
parochialism of humanity. The bird has admitted a larger 
air. We breathe deeply of it and are made free citizens 
of eternity. We hear voices that were not dreamed of 
before, the voices of those spirits that live \x\ minute forms 
of life, the spirits that weave the frost flower on the fallen 
branch, the gnomes of undergound, those who care for the 
fungus on the beech root, the lichen on the trunk, the 
algae on the gravestone. This hazel lane is a palace of 
strange pomp m an empire of which v/e suddenly find 
ourselves guests, not wholly alien nor ill at ease, though 
the language is new. Drink but a little draught of this 
air and no need is there to fear the ways of men, their 
mockery, their cruelty, their foreignness. 

The song rules the cloudy dawn, the waiting ranges 
of hills and their woods full of shadows yet crested with 
gold, their lawns of light, the soft distended grey clouds 
all over the sky through which the white sun looks on 
the world and is glad. But it has ceased when the per- 
pendicular shafts of rain divide the mists over the hillside 
woods and the pewits tangle their flight through the air 



THE END OF WINTER 35 

that is now alive with the moist gleaming of myriads of 
leaves on bramble, thorn and elder. Presently the rain is 
only a glittering of needles in the sun. For the sky is all 
one pale grey cloud, darker at the lowest edge where it 
trails upon the downs and veils their summits, except 
in the south-east. There the edge is lifted up over a 
narrow pane of silver across which fleet the long slender 
fringes of the clouds. Through this pane the sun sends 
a broad cascade of light, and up into this the fields and 
the Down beyond rise and are transfigured, the fields into 
a lake of emerald, the Down — here crowned by trees in 
a cluster — into a castle of pearl set upon the borders of 
the earth. Slowly this pane is broadened; the clouds are 
plumped into shape, are illumined, are distinguished from 
one another by blue vales of sky, until at length the land 
is all one gleam of river and pool and grass and leaf and 
polished bough, whether swollen into hills or folded into 
valleys or smoothed into plain. The sky seems to belong 
to this land, the sky of purest blue and clouds that are 
moulded like the Downs themselves but of snow and 
sun. 

In the clear air each flower stands out with separate and 
perfect beauty, moist, soft and bright, a beauty than which 
i know nothing more nearly capable of transferring the 
soul to the days and the pleasures of infancy. The crust 
of half a lifetime falls away, and we can feel what Blake 
expressed when he wrote those lines in Milton — 

Thou perceivest the flowers put forth their precious odours, 
And none can tell how from so small a centre comes such sweet, 
Forgetting that within that centre Eternity expands 
Its ever-during doors, that Og and Anax fiercely guard. 
D 2 



36 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

First, ere the morning breaks, joy opens in the flowery bosoms, 
Joy even to tears, which the Sun rising dries ; first the Wild 

Thyme 
And Meadow-sweet, downy and soft, waving among the reeds, 
Light springing in the air, lead the sweet Dance ; they wake 
The Honeysuckle sleeping in the Oak, the flaunting beauty 
Revels along upon the wind ; the white-thorn lovely May 
Opens her many lovely eyes ; listening the Rose still sleeps. 
None dare to wake her. Soon she bursts her crimson-curtained 

bed 
And comes forth in the majesty of beauty ; every Flower — 
The Pink, the Jessamine, the Wallflower, the Carnation, 
The Jonquil, the mild Lily opes her heavens ; every Tree 
And Flower and Herb soon fill the air with an innumerable 

Dance, 
Yet all in order sweet and lovely 

Those words or such a morning — when the soul steps 
back many years; or is it many centuries? — might have 
moved M. Maeterlinck to his descriptions of certain great 
moments in the lives of plants. The terms of these 
descriptions are so chosen as to imply an intelligence and 
discriminating vital energy in plants. They prove and 
explain nothing, but they take one step towards the truth 
by disturbing the conventional scientific view and sub- 
stituting that of a man who, passionately looking at many 
forms of life, finds them to be of one family. After this, 
it should be more and more difficult for men to think of 
flowers as if they were fragile toys from an exceptionally 
brilliant manufacturer. 

And now there is a day of sun and high blue sky 
alternating with low, grey-yellow sky and driving snow 
that chequers the northern sides of the furrows and the 
beech boles. The sun melts the snow and all is clear, 



THE END OF WINTER 37 

bright and cold, and the sky blue again with white and 
lofty clouds; many thrushes are singing; the broad vale 
is all one blue moorland that has buried its houses, and 
the Downs at the far side are close at hand. Towards 
evening the wind falls, and it is a glimpse of another 
world that is given as the sun is warm for a moment on 
a low curving slope of wet grass, with tall rookery 
beeches glowing on one hand and on the other bulging 
white clouds just emerging from behind the green edge 
into the blue, while very far away the Downs, both grass 
and wood, are deep blue under a broad pane of yellowish 
light. 

The north wind makes walking weather, and the earth 
is stretched out below us and before us to be conquered. 
Just a little, perhaps, of the warrior's joy at seeing an 
enemy's fair land from the hill-top is mingled with the 
joy in the unfolding landscape. The ploughlands brighten 
over twenty miles of country, pale and dry, among dark 
woods and wooded hills; for the wind has crumbled the 
soil almost white, so that a sudden local sunlight will make 
one field seem actually of snow. The old road follow- 
ing a terrace of the hillside curves under yews away from 
the flinty arable and the grey, dry desolation round about 
the poultry-farmer's iron house, to the side of a rich valley 
of oak and ash and deepening pastures traversed by water 
in a glitter. The green fire of the larch woods is yellow at 
the crest. There and in oak and ash the missel thrush is 
an embodiment of the north wind, summing it up in 
the boldness of his form and singing, as a coat of arms 
sums up a history. Mounted on the plume of the top 
of the tall fir, and waving with it, he sings of adventure, 



38 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

and puts a spirit into those who pass under and adds a 
mile to their pace. The gorse is in flower. In the 
hedges the goose-grass has already set its ladders against 
the thorns, ladders that will soon have risen to the top 
of every hedge like scaling ladders of an infinite army. 
Down from tall yew and ash hang the abandoned ropes 
of last year's traveller's joy that have leapt that height — 
who has caught them in the leap? — but the new are on 
their way, and even the old show what can be done as 
they sway from the topmost branches. At sunset an 
immense and bountiful land lies at our feet and the wine- 
red sun is pouring out large cups of conquest. The 
undulating ploughland is warm in the red light, and it is 
broken up by some squares of old brown stubble and of 
misty young wheat, and lesser green squares full of bleat- 
ing and tinkling sheep. Out of these fields the dense 
beech copses rise sheer. Beyond, in the west, are ridges 
of many woods in misty conflagration; in the south-west, 
the line of the Downs under the level white clouds of a 
spacious and luminous sky. In the south, woods upon the 
hills are dissolving into a deep blue smoke, without form 
except at their upper edges. And in the north and north- 
west the high lands of Berkshire and Wiltshire are pros- 
trate and violet through thirty miles of witching air. 
That also is a call to go on and on and over St. Cath- 
erine's Hill and through Winchester until the brain is 
drowsed with the colours of night and day. 

The colour of the dawn is lead and white — white snow 
falling out of a leaden sky to the white earth. The rose 
branches bend in sharper and sharper curves to the ground, 
the loaded yew sprays sweep the snow with white plumes. 



THE END OF WINTER 39 

On the sedges the snow is in fleeces; the light strands of 
clematis are without motion, and have gathered it in 
clots. One thrush sings, but cannot long endure the 
sound of his unchallenged note; the sparrows chirrup in 
the ricks; the blackbird is waiting for the end of that low 
tingling noise of the snow falling straight in windless air. 

At mid-day the snow is finer and almost rain, and it 
begins to pour down from its hives among the branches 
in short showers or in heavy hovering lumps. The leaves 
of ivy and holly are gradually exposed in all their gloomy 
polish, and out bursts the purple of the ash buds and the 
yellow of new foliage. The beech stems seem in their 
wetness to be made of a dark agate. Out from their tops 
blow rags of mist, and not far above them clouds like old 
spiders* webs go rapidly by. 

The snow falls again and the voices of the little summer 
birds are buried in the silence of the flakes that whirl this 
way and that aimlessly, rising and falling and crossing 
or darting horizontally, making the trees sway wearily 
and their light tops toss and their numbers roar continu- 
ally in the legions of the wind that whine and moan and 
shiiek their hearts out in the solitary house roofs and doors 
and round about. The silence of snow co-exists with 
this roar. One wren pierces it with a needle of song and 
is gone. The earth and sky are drowning in night and 
snow. 



CHAPTER III 

SPRING HAMPSHIRE KENT SURREY 

Next day the wind has flown and the snow is again 
almost rain : there is ever a hint of pale sky above, but it 
is not as luminous as the earth. The trees over the road 
have a beauty of darkness and moistness. Beyond them 
the earth is a sainted corpse, with a blue light over it that 
is fast annihilating all matter and turning the landscape 
to a spirit only. Night and the snow descend upon it, 
and at dawn the nests are full of snow. The yews and 
junipers on a league of Downs are chequered white upon 
white slopes, and the green larches support cirrus clouds 
of snow. In the garden the daffodils bend criss-cross 
under snow that cannot quite conceal the yellow flowers. 
But the snow has ceased. The sky is at first pale without 
a cloud and tender as from a long imprisonment; it 
deepens in hue as the sun climbs and gathers force. The 
crooked paths up the Downs begin to glitter like streaks 
of lightning. The thrushes sing. From the straight dark 
beeches the snow cannot fall fast enough in great drops, 
in showers, in masses that release the boughs with a 
quiver and a gleam. The green leaves close to the 
ground creep out, and against them the snow is blue. 
A little sighing wind rustles ivy and juniper and yew. 
The sun mounts, and from his highest battlement of 
cloud blows a long blast of light over the pure land. 
Once more the larch is wholly green, the beech rosy 
brown with buds. A cart goes by all a-gleam with a 

40 



SPRING 41 

load of crimson-sprouting swedes and yellow-sprouting 
mangolds that seem to be burning through the net of 
snow above them. Down each side of every white road 
runs a stream that sings and glitters in ripples like 
innumerable crystal flowers. Water drips and trickles 
and leaps and gushes and oozes everywhere, and extracts 
the fragrance of earth and green and flowers under the 
heat that hastens to undo the work of the snow. The 
air is hot and wet. The snow is impatient to be water 
again. It still makes a cape over the briers and brambles, 
and there is a constant drip and steam and song of drops 
from the crossing branches in the cave below. Loud 
sounds the voice of leaf and branch and imprisoned water 
in the languor and joy of their escape. On every hand 
there is a drip and gush and ooze of water, a crackle and 
rustle and moan of plants and trees unfolding and unbend- 
ing and greeting air and light; a close, humid, many- 
perfumed host; wet gloom and a multitudinous glitter; 
a movement of water and of the shadows like puffs of 
smoke that fleet over the white fields under the clouds. 
And over and through it a cuckoo is crying and crying, 
first overhead, then afar, and gradually near and retreating 
again. He is soon gone, but the ears are long afterwards 
able to extract the spirit of the song, the exact interval of 
it, from among all the lasting sounds, until we hear it as 
clearly as before, out of the blue sky, out of the white 
cloud, out of the shining grey water. It is a word of 
power — cuckoo ! The melting of the snow is faster 
than ever, and at the end of the day there is none left 
except in some hollows of the Downs on the slopes 
behind the topmost of the beeches that darkly fringe the 



42 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

violet sky. In the misty shutting of the light there are 
a thousand songs laced by cuckoos' cries and the first 
hooting of owls, and the beeches have become merely 
straight lines of pearl in a mist of their own boughs. 
Below them, in the high woods, goes on the fall of the 
melting snow through the gloomy air, and the splash on 
the dead leaves. This gloom and monotonous sound make 
an exquisite cloister, visited but not disturbed by the sound 
of the blackbirds singing in the mist of the vale under- 
neath. Slowly the mist has deepened from the woods to 
the vale and now the eye cannot see from tree to tree. 
Then the straight heavy rain descends upon the songs 
and the clatterings of blackbirds, and when they are 
silenced the moorhen's watery hoot announces that the 
world belongs to the beasts and the rainy dark until to- 
morrow. 

Beautiful upon the waters, beautiful upon the moun- 
tains, is the cuckoo's song, and most rare over the snow. 
But of all places and hours I should choose the crags 
of Land's End in a dawn of June; and let it be the end 
of that month and the wind be grey and cold, so that the 
ships stagger in the foam and crag-like waves as they 
catch the early light tenderly upon their sails. The cold 
beams, the high precipices yet full of shadow and of the 
giddy calling of daw and gull, the black but white-lipped 
water and the blacker cormorant flying straight across it 
just over the foam, the sky golden yet still pallid and 
trembling from the dungeon of night — through it floats 
that beloved voice breaking, breaking, and the strong 
year at the summit of its career has begun to decline. 
The song is memorable and fair also when the drenched 



SPRING 43 

gardens toss and spread their petals in the grass. Many a 
one hears it who will not hear it again, and many that 
once expected it impatiently hears it no more because he 
is old and deaf or because his heart is closed. There is 
not a broad and perfect day of heat and wind and sunshine 
that is not haunted by that voice seeming to say the earth 
is hollow under our feet and the sky hollow over our 
heads. 

There are whole nights when the cuckoo will not sleep, 
and the woods on either side of a road twenty miles long 
emit the cry of these conquerors under the full moon and 
the white stars of love. If you pause it will appear that 
it is not a silence that this song rules over; for what was 
a silence Vv^as full of sounds, as many sounds as there are 
leaves, sounds of creeping, gliding, pattering, rustling, 
slow wormlike continuous noises and sudden sounds. And 
strangely at length is the glorious day reared high upon 
the ruins of this night, of which the survivors slink away 
into the old forgotten roads, the dense woods, the 
chimneys of deserted houses. 

It is a jolly note only when the bird is visible close 
at hand and the power of his throat is felt. Often two 
or three will answer one another, or for half a day will 
loiter about a coombe for the sake of an echo. It is one of 
the richest sounds in nature when two sing together, the 
second note of one being almost blended with the first 
of the other; and so they continue as if themselves 
entranced by the harmony, and the navvy leans upon his 
pick to listen. 

On the day after the great melting of the snow the 



44 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

white beam tree, at the edges of high woods and in the 
midst of the beeches, has its hour, when its thousands of 
large white buds point upward like a multitudinous 
candelabrum. For me the white beam is always associ- 
ated with wayfaring. Its white buds are the traveller's 
joy of spring. The buds like blossoms or flames bewitch 
from afar off. They are always upon sloping ground 
and usually upon hillsides in the chalk land. In the 
autumn their leaves often shrivel before falling, and turn 
to a colour that looks like pink almond blossom by con- 
trast with juniper and yew. When they have fallen, they 
are as much to be noticed. They lie commonly with their 
white undersides uppermost, and though rain soaks them 
and wind scatters them and they are trodden down, they 
preserve their whiteness until the winter or the following 
spring. It is a tree that belongs, above all others except 
the yew, to the Pilgrims' Way, and it is impossible to 
forget these leaves lying white on the untouched wayside 
sward, among the dewy purple and crimson and gold 
of other leaves, sparkling in the sun and entering into all 
the thoughts and fancies and recollections that come to 
one who goes in solitude along that old road when the 
scent of the dying year is pungent as smoke and sweet 
as flowers. 



KENT, SURREY AND HAMPSHIRE. 

The beam tree is bright on the soft hills all through 
the days of rain following upon the snow and sun. There 
are days when earth is absorbed in her delights of growth 
and multiplication. The rain is a veil which she wraps 



SPRING 45 

about her that she may toil and sing low at her myriad 
divine domesticities untroubled. Delicate snails climb 
the young stalks of grass and flower, and their houses, 
pearly, chocolate, tawny, pure or ringed or chequered, 
slide after them. The leaves, with their indescribable 
charm of infinitely varied division, of wild clematis, 
maple, brier, hawthorn, and many more, come forth into 
the rain which hangs on their drooping points and on 
the thorns. The lichen enjoys the enduring mist of the 
woods; the blackthorns are crusted and bearded with 
lichens of fleshy green-silver and ochre which grow even 
on the thorns themselves and round the new leaves and 
flowers. The birch is now an arrested shower of green, 
but not enough to hide the white limbs of the nymph in 
the midst of it. The beech trunk is now most exquisitely 
coloured : it is stained and spotted and blotched with grey 
and rough silver and yellow-green lichen, palest green 
mould, all the greens of moss, and an elusive dappling 
and graining of greys, of neutral tints and almost blacks 
in the wood itself, still more diversified by the trickling 
rain and the changing night. The yew bark is plated 
and scaled and stained with greens and reds and greys, 
powdered with green mould, and polished in places to 
the colour of mahogany. Even the long-deserted thistly 
cornfields are dim purple with ground-ivy flowers and 
violets. The marsh, the pasture, the wood, the hedge, 
has each its abundance of bloom and of scent; so, too, has 
the still water and tlie running water. But this is the 
perfect hour of the green of grass, so intense that it has 
an earthly light of its own in the sunless mist. It is best 
seen in meadows bounded on two or three sides by the 



46 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

sheer dark edges of woods; for in that contrast the grass 
seems a new element, neither earth, nor water, nor sky — 
under our feet like the earth, gleaming and even as 
water, remote and celestial as the sky. And the voices 
of the green growing in the rain are innumerable. The 
very ground has now one voice of its own, the gurgle 
of its soaking hollow places. 



HAMPSHIRE. 

The fields where the green is now greenest, those 
bounded on two or more sides by woods, are of a kind 
not peculiar to Hampshire. They are usually on the 
greensand and lie in smooth, often winding, hollows 
like the beds of rivers. Sometimes the banks of these 
beds are steep, and they are clothed in woods or in hedges 
of hornbeam, hazel, ash and thorn that have grown 
almost to woods. The meadows are green broad rivers 
running up between the dark trees that bathe their roots 
in primroses. Sometimes there is a stream of water run- 
ning down the midst of such a field, but as the stream, 
being a boundary, is often lined with bushes, the par- 
ticular charm is lost. In the perfect examples there is 
the smoothness of the long hollowed meadow, the green, 
the river-like form, the look of being a court or cloister 
between the trees. Another kind of field of great charm 
is made by the convexity of the land rising up from one 
side or both of such a hollow meadow. These heaving 
fields, some of a regular domed shape, are favourites of 
the sunset light, in spring when they are grassy, in August 



SPRING 47 

when they bear corn : at noon when there are cattle 
grazing on the steep slope, their shadows are an exact 
inversion of themselves, as in water. 

Out of the rain and mist spring has now risen full- 
grown, tender and lusty, fragrant, many-coloured, many- 
voiced, fair to see, so that it is beyond a lover's power 
to make even an inventory of her lovely ways. She is 
tall, she is fresh and bold, sweet in her motion and in 
her tranquillity; and there is a soft down upon her lip as 
there is a silken edge to the young leaves of the beeches. 



KENT. 

Even the motor road is pleasant now when the 
nightingales sing out of the bluebell thickets under oak 
and sweet chestnut and hornbeam and hazel. Presently 
it crosses a common, too small ever to draw a crowd, a 
rough up-and-down expanse of gorse and thorn, pierced by 
grassy paths and surrounded by turf that is rushy and 
mounded by old ant heaps; and here, too, there are 
nightingales singing alone, the sweeter for the contrast 
between their tangled silent bowers and the sharp, straight 
white road. The common is typical of the lesser commons 
of the south. Crouch's Croft in Sussex is another, in 
sight of the three dusk moorland breasts of Crowborough; 
gorse-grown, flat, possessing a pond, and walled by 
tall hollies in a hedge. Piet Down, close by, is a fellow 
to it — grass and gorse and irregular pine — a pond, too — 
rough, like a fragment of Ashdown or Woolmer, and 
bringing a wild sharp flavour into the mellow cultivated 



48 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

land. Yet another is at Stone Street, very small, a few 
oaks up to their knees in blackthorn, gorse and bramble, 
with dusty edge and the hum of the telegraph wire for 
a song. 

After the little common and long meadows, oak and ash, 

an old stone house with seven hundred years of history 

quiet within its walls and dark tiles — its cedar and yew 

and pine, its daisied grass, its dark water and swans — 

the four oast cones opposite, all taste more exquisitely. 

How goodly are the names hereabout! — Dinas Dene, the 

coombe in which the old house stands; Balk Shaw, Cream 

Crox, Dicky May's Field, Ivy Hatch, Lady Lands, 

Lady's Wood, Upper and Lower Robsacks, Obram 

Wood, Ruffats, Styant's Mead, the Shode, and, of course, 

a Starvecrow. Almost due west goes one of the best of 

footpaths past hop garden, corn, currant plantations, rough 

copses, with glimpses of the immense Weald to the east, 

its trees massed like thirty miles of wood, having sky 

and cloud over its horizon as if over sea, and southward 

the wild ridge of Ashdown. Then the path enters tall 

woods of ash and oak, boulder-strewn among their 

anemone and primrose, bluebell and dog's mercury, and 

emerges in a steep lane at the top of which are five cowled 

oast houses among cherry blossom and under black firs. 

Beyond there is a hollow winding vale of meadow and 

corn, its sides clothed in oak, hazel and thorn, revealing 

primroses between. Woods shut it away from the road 

and from all houses but the farm above one end. A few 

cattle graze there, and the sun comes through the sloping 

woods and makes the grass golden or pale. 

Then the North Downs come in sight, above a church 



SPRING 49 

tower amid stateliest pale-foliaged beeches and vast undu- 
lations of meadow. They are suffused in late sunshine, 
their trees misty and massed, under a happy sky. Those 
beeches lie below the road, lining the edge of one long 
meadow. The opposite sun pours almost horizontal beams 
down upon the perfectly new leaves so as to give each 
one a yellow-green glow and to some a silver shimmer 
about the shadowy boles. For the moment the trees lose 
their anchor in the solid earth. They are floating, 
wavering, shimmering, more aerial and pure and wild 
than birds or any visible things, than aught except music 
and the fantasies of the brain. The mind takes flight 
and hovers among the leaves with whatsoever powers 
it has akin to dew and trembling lark's song and rippling 
water; it is throbbed away not only above the ponderous 
earth but below the firmament in the middle world of 
footless fancies and half thoughts that drift hither and 
thither and know neither a heaven nor a home. It is a 
loss of a name and not of a belief that forbids us to say 
to-day that sprites flutter and tempt there among the new 
leaves of the beeches in the late May light. 

Almost every group of oast houses here, seen either 
amongst autumn fruit or spring blossom, is equal in its 
effect to a temple, though different far, even when ivy- 
mantled as they occasionally are, from the grey towered 
or spired churches standing near. The low round brick 
tower of the oast house, surmounted by a tiled cone of 
about equal height, and that again crested with a white 
cowl and vane, is a pleasant form. There are groups of 
three which, in their age, mellow hue, roundness, and 
rustic dignity, have suggested the triple mother goddesses 



50 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

of old religions who were depicted as matrons, carrying 
babes or fruit or flowers, to whom the peasant brought 
thank-offerings when sun and rain had been kind. Those 
at Kemsing, for example, stand worthily beside the 
perfect grey-shingled spire, among elm and damson, 
against the bare cloudy Down. And there are many 
others near the Pilgrims' Way of the same charm. 

That road, in its winding course from Winchester to 
Canterbury, through Hampshire, Surrey and Kent, sums 
up all qualities of roads except those of the straight high- 
way. It is a cart- way from farm to farm; or a footpath 
only, or a sheaf of half-a-dozen footpaths worn side by 
side; or, no longer needed except by the curious, it is 
buried under nettle and burdock and barricaded by thorns 
and traveller's joy and bryony bines; it has been cori- 
verted into a white country road for a few miles of its 
length, until an ascent over the Downs or a descent into 
the valley has to be made, and then once more it is left 
to footsteps upon grass and bird's foot trefoil or to rude 
wheels over flints. Sometimes it is hidden among 
untended hazels or among chalk banks topped with beech 
and yew, and the kestrel plucks the chaffinch there 
undisturbed. Or it goes free and hedgeless like a long 
balcony half-way up the Downs, and unespied it beholds 
half the South Country between ash tree boles. Church 
and inn and farm and cottage and tramp's fire it passes 
like a wandering wraith of road. Some one of the little 
gods of the earth has kept it safe — one of those little and 
less than omnipotent gods who, neglecting all but their 
own realms, enjoy the earth in narrow ways, delighting 
to make small things fair, such as a group of trees, a 



SPRING 51 

single field, a pure pool of sedge and bright water, an arm 
of sea, a train of clouds, a road. I see their hands in 
many a by-way of space and moment of time. One of 
them assuredly harbours in a rude wet field I know of 
that lies neglected between two large estates : three acres 
at most of roughly sloping pasture, bounded above by the 
brambly edge of a wood and below by a wild stream. 

I Here a company of meadow-sweet invades the grass, 
jliere willow herb tall with rosy summits of flowers, 
loary lilac mint, dull golden fleabane, spiry coltstails. 
|he snake creeps careless through these thickets of bloom. 
The sedge- warbler sings there. One old white horse is 
bntent with the field, summer and winter, and has made 
f plot of it silver with his hairs where he lies at night. 
The image of the god is in the grey riven willow that 
leans leafless over the stream like a peasant sculpture of 
old time. There is another of these godkins in a bare 
chalk hollow where the dead thistles stick out through a 
yard of snow and give strange thoughts of the sailless 
beautiful sea that once rippled over the Downs : one also 
in the smell of hay and mixen and cow's breath at the 
first farm out of London where the country is unsoiled. 
There is one in many a worthless waste by the roadside, 
such as that between two roads that go almost parallel 
for a while — a long steep piece, only a few feet broad, 
impenetrably overgrown by blackthorn and blackberry, 
but unenclosed : and one in each of the wayside chalk-pits 
with overhanging beech roots above and bramble below. 
One, too, perhaps many, were abroad one August night 
on a high hillside when the hedge crickets sang high up 
in the dogwood and clematis like small but deafening 
E 2 



52 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

sewing machines, and the glowworms shone in the thyme, 
and the owl's crying did not rend the breathless silence 
under the full moon, and in the confused moonlit chequer 
of the wood, where tree and shadow were equals, I 
walked on a grating of shadows with lights between as if 
from under the earth; the hill was given over to a light 
happiness through which I passed an unwilling but 
un feared intruder. 

In places these gods preside over some harmony of the 
earth with the works of men. There is one such upon 
the Pilgrims' Way, where I join it, after passing the dark 
boughs and lightsome flowers of cherry orchards, grass 
full of dandelions, a dark cluster of pines, elms in groups 
and cavalcades, and wet willowy meadows that feed the 
Medway. Just at the approach there is a two-storied 
farm with dormers in the darkly mellowed roof, pro- 
tected by sycamores and chestnuts, and before it a 
weather-boarded barn with thatched roof, and then, but 
not at right angles, another with ochre tiles, and other 
outbuildings of old brick and tile, a waggon lodge of flint 
and thatch beside a pond, at the edge of a broad unhedged 
field where random oaks shadow the grass. Behind runs 
the Pilgrims' Way, invisible but easily guessed under that 
line of white beam and yew, with here and there an 
ash up which the stout plaited stems of ivy are sculptured, 
for they seem of the same material as the tree, and both 
of stone. Under the yew and white beam the clematis 
clambers over dogwood and wayfaring trees. Corn grows 
up to the road and sometimes hops; beyond, a league of 
orchard is a-froth round farmhouses or islands of oak; and 
east and west sweeps the crescent of the North Downs. 



SPRING 53 

With the crescent goes the road, half-way up the sides 
of the hills but nearly always at the foot of the steepest 
slopes where the chalk-pits are carved white, like the con- 
cave of a scallop shell, out of the green turf. Luxuriant 
hedges bar the view except at gateways and stiles. At 
one place the upper hedge gives way to scattered thickets 
scrambling up the hill, with chalky ruts and rabbit work- 
ings between. Neither sheep nor crops cover the hill, 
nor yet is it common. Any one can possess it — for an 
hour. It is givea up to the rabbits until Londoners can 
be persuaded to build houses on it. At intervals a road 
as old as the Way itself descends precipitously in a deep 
chalk groove, overhung by yew and beech, or hornbeam, 
or oak, and white clouds drifting in a river of blue sky 
between the trees; and joins farther south the main road 
which winds, parallel with the Pilgrims' Way and usually 
south of it, from Winchester, through Guildford, Dork- 
ing, Westerham, Maidstone, Ash ford, and Canterbury to 
Dover Strait. Not only chalk-pits and deep roads hollow 
the hills. For miles there is a succession of small smooth 
coombes, some grown with white thorn, some grassy, 
above the road, alternating with corresponding smooth 
breasts of turf. Towers and spires, but chiefly towers, lie 
beneath, and in the mile or so between one and the next 
there are red farms or, very rarely, a greater house at the 
end of a long wave of grass among trees. Above, the 
white full-bosomed clouds lean upon the green rampart 
of the hills and look across to the orchards, the woods be- 
yond, the oaken Weald and its lesser ridges still farther, 
and then the South Downs and a dream of the south sea. 

Rain falls, and in upright grey sheaves passes slowly 



54 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

before the fresh beech leaves like ghosts in shadowy pro- 
cession; and once again the white clouds roll over the 
tops of the trees, and the green is virginal, and out of the 
drip and glimmer of the miles of blissful country rises the 
blackbird's song and the cuckoo's shout. The rain seems 
not only to have brightened what is to be seen but the 
eye that sees and the mind that knows, and suddenly we 
are aware of all the joy in the grandeur and mastery of 
an oak's balance, in those immobile clouds revealed on 
the farthest horizon shaped like the mountains which a 
child imagines, in the white candles of the beam tree, in 
the black-eyed bird sitting in her nest in the hawthorn 
with uplifted beak, and in the myriad luxuriant variety 
of shape and texture and bright colour in the divided 
leaves of wood sanicle and moschatel and parsley and 
cranesbill, in the pure outline of twayblade and violet 
and garlic. Newly dressed in the crystal of the rain the 
landscape recalls the earlier spring; the flowers of white 
wood-sorrel, the pink and white anemone and cuckoo 
flower, the thick-clustered, long-stalked primroses and 
darker cowslips with their scentless sweetness pure as an 
infant's breath; the solitary wild cherry trees flowering 
among still leafless beech; the blackbirds of twilight and 
the flower- faced owls; the pewits wheeling after dusk; 
the jonquil and daffodil and arabis and leopard's bane of 
cottage gardens; the white clouds plunged in blue floating 
over the brown woods of the hills; the delicate thrushes 
with speckled breasts paler than their backs, motionless 
on dewy turf; and all the joys of life that come through 
the nostrils from the dark, not understood world which 
is unbolted for us by the delicate and savage fragrances 



SPRING 55 

of leaf and flower and grass and clod, of the plumage of 
birds and fur of animals and breath and hair of women 
and children. 

How can our thoughts, the movements of our bodies, 
our human kindnesses, ever fit themselves with this blithe 
world? Is it but vain remorse at what is lost, or is it 
not rather a token of what may yet be achieved, that 
makes these images blind us as does the sight of children 
dressed for a play, some solemn-thoughtful, some wholly 
gay, suddenly revealed to us in brilliant light after the 
night wind and rain ? 

But at morning twilight I see the moon low in the 
west like a broken and dinted shield of silver hanging 
long forgotten outside the tent of a great knight in a 
wood, and inside are the knight's bones clean and white 
about his rusted sword. In the east the sun rises, a red- 
faced drover and a million sheep going before him silent 
over the blue downs of the dawn : and I am ill-content 
and must watch for a while the fraying, changeful edges 
of the lesser clouds drift past and into the great white 
ones above, or hear rebellious music that puts for one 
brief hour into our hands the reins of the world that we 
may sit mightily behind the horses and drive to the 
goal of our dreams. 

A footpath leads from the Pilgrims' Way past the 
divine undulations and beech glades of a park — a broad 
piece of the earth that flows hither and thither in curves, 
sudden or slow but flawless and continuous, and every- 
where clothed in a seamless garment of grass. The path 
crosses the white main road into a lesser one that traverses 
a common of beech and oak and birch. The leaves make 



56 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

an unbroken roof over the common : except the roads 
there is not a path in it. For it is a small and narrow 
strip of but a few acres, without any open space, gloomy, 
much overgrown by thickets. Last year's leaves lie 
undisturbed and of the colour of red deer under the silky 
green new foliage and round the huge mossy pedestals 
of beech and in caves behind the serpentine locked roots. 
No child's shout is heard. No lover walks there. The 
motor-car hurries the undesirable through and down into 
the Weald. And so it is alone and for themselves that 
the beeches rise up in carven living stone and expand in 
a green heaven for the song of the woodwren, pouring 
out pearls like wine. 

Southward, on either side of the steep road, the slope is, 
below the beeches, given to corn and hops; at the foot are 
all the oaks and pasture of the Weald, diversified by hop 
gardens on many of the slanting fields that break up its 
surface. Looking back from here the hills above are 
less finely modelled than the downs still farther behind us 
in the north. But they also have their shallow coombes, 
sometimes two tiers of them, and they are indented by 
deep, wide-mouthed bays. One of them begins in 
copses of oak and hazel and sallow, a little arable, a farm, 
three oast cones, and a little steep orchard in a hollow of 
their own, which give way to hops, followed by grass and 
then a tortuous ploughland among the oaks and firs of the 
great woods that cover the more precipitous sides of the 
upper end of the bay. Exquisitely cultivated, this bay is 
yet a possession of cuckoo and nightingale, singing under 
the yellow-green and black-branched oaks and above the 
floor of bluebell and dark dog's mercury. 



SPRING 57 

Out of the coombe a deep lane ascends through beech, 
hazel and beam to another common of heather, and whin- 
berry bathing the feet of scattered birch, and squat oak 
and pine, interrupted by yellow gravel pits. 

Beyond is a little town and a low grey spire, neigh- 
boured by sycamores that stretch out horizontal boughs 
of broad leaves and new yellow-green flower tassels over 
long grass. Past the town — rapidly and continually 
resuming its sleep after the hooting of motor-cars — begins 
a wide and stately domain. At its edge are cottages 
doddering with age, but trim and flowery, and assuredly 
wearing the livery of the ripe, grave house of brick that 
stands on the grassy ascent above them, among new-leaved 
beech masses and isolated thorns dreaming over their 
shadows. That grove of limes, fair and decorous, leading 
up to the house is the work of Nature and the squire. 
His chestnut and pine plantations succeed. And now a 
pollard beech, bossy-rooted on a mound of moss and 
crumbling earth, its grotesque torso decorated as by 
childish hands with new leaves hanging among mighty 
boughs that are themselves a mansion for squirrel and 
jay and willow wren and many shadows, looks grimly 
down at the edge of a wood and asks for the wayfarer's 
passport — has he lived well, does he love this world, is 
he bold and free and kind? — and if he have it not seals 
him with melancholy as he enters among the innumer- 
able leaves of innumerable beeches beginning to respond 
to the straight, still, after-sunset rain, while the last 
cuckoos cry and the last footsteps and wheels of the world 
die away behind. The foliage has a pale, almost white, 
light of its own among the darkly dripping boughs, and 



58 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

when that is gone the rain and leaf under a spongy grey 
sky have a myriad voices of contentedness. Below, 
invisible in the dark rain but not unfelt, is the deep hollow 
land of the Weald. The owls whimper and mew and 
croon and hoot and shriek their triumphs. 



SURREY. 

In the morning a storm comes up on bellying blue 
clouds above the pale levels of young corn and round- 
topped trees black as night but gold at their crests. 
The solid rain does away with all the hills, and shows 
only the solitary thorns at the edge of an oak wood, or a 
row of beeches above a hazel hedgerow and, beneath that, 
stars of stitchwort in the drenched grass. But a little 
while and the sky is emptied and in its infant blue there 
are white clouds with silver gloom in their folds; and 
the light falls upon round hills, yew and beech thick 
upon their humps, the coombes scalloped in their sides 
tenanted by oaks beneath. By a grassy chalk pit and 
clustering black yew, white beam and rampant clematis, 
is the Pilgrims' Way. Once more the sky empties heavy 
and dark rain upon the bright trees so that they pant and 
quiver while they take it joyfully into their deep hearts. 
Before the eye has done with watching the dance and 
glitter of rain and the sway of branches, the blue is again 
clear and like a meadow sprinkled over with blossoming 
cherry trees. 

The decent vale consists of square green fields and 
park-like slopes, dark pine and light beech : but beyond 
that the trees gather together in low ridge after ridge so 



SPRING 59 

that the South Country seems a dense forest from east 
to west. On one side of the hill road is a common of 
level ash and oak woods, holly and thorn at their edges, 
and between them and the dust a grassy tract, sometimes 
furzy; on the other, oaks and beeches sacred to the 
pheasant but exposing countless cuckoo flowers among the 
hazels of their underwood. Please trespass. The Eng- 
lish game preserve is a citadel of woodland charm, and 
however precious, it has only one or two defenders easily 
eluded and, when met, most courteous to all but children 
and not very well dressed women. The burglar's must 
be a bewitching trade if we may judge by the pleasures 
of the trespasser's unskilled labour. 

In the middle of the wood is a four-went way, and the 
grassy or white roads lead where you please among tall 
beeches or broad, crisp-leaved shining thorns and brief 
open spaces given over to the mounds of ant and mole, 
to gravel pits and heather. Is this the Pilgrims' Way, 
in the valley now, a frail path chiefly through oak and 
hazel, sometimes over whin and whinberry and heather 
and sand, but looking up at the yews and beeches of the 
chalk hills? It passes a village pierced by straight clear 
waters — a woodland church — woods of the willow wren 
— and then, upon a promontory, alone, within the greenest 
mead rippled up to its walls by but few graves, another 
church, dark, squat, small-windowed, old, and from its 
position above the world having the characters of church 
and beacon and fortress, calling for all men's reverence. 
Up here in the rain it utters the pathos of the old roads 
behind, wiped out as if writ in water, or worn deep and 
then deserted and surviving only as tunnels under the hazels. 



6o THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

I wish they could always be as accessible as churches 
are, and not handed over to land-owners — like Sandsbury 
Lane near Petersfield — because straight new roads have 
taken their places for the purposes of tradesmen and car- 
riage people, or boarded up like that discarded fragment, 
deep-sunken and overgrown, below Colman's Hatch in 
Surrey. For centuries these roads seemed to hundreds so 
necessary, and men set out upon them at dawn with hope 
and followed after joy and were fain of their whiteness 
at evening : few turned this way or that out of them 
except into others as well worn (those who have turned 
aside for wantonness have left no trace at all), and most 
have been well content to see the same things as those 
who went before and as they themselves have seen a 
hundred times. And now they, as the sound of their feet 
and the echoes, are dead, and the roads are but pleasant 
folds in the grassy chalk. Stay, traveller, says tlie dark 
tower on the hill, and tread softly because your way is 
over men's dreams; but not too long; and now descend to 
the west as fast as feet can carry you, and follow your 
own dream, and that also shall in course of time lie under 
men's feet; for there is no going so sweet as upon the old 
dreams of men. 



CHAPTER IV 

AN ADVENTURER 

In one of the new cottages at the edge of the town 
beyond lives, or tries to live, a man who fought for many 
years in one of the suburbs a losing battle against London. 
His father had farmed land now covered by streets. He 
himself was persuaded to sell all but his house and garden 
to raise money for a business which promised his sons 
great wealth. He retained barely enough to live upon; 
the business, an honest one, failed; and in a short time 
misfortunes compelled him to open a shop. He con- 
verted the house — that was once a farmhouse — into a 
shop, and not five years ago it could still be seen at the 
end of a row of gaudy, glittering windows, itself a village 
shop, having but a common house window for the display 
of wares, the interior gloomy and approached through a 
Strip of garden where a lime-tree put on and shed its 
leaves with the air of a princess of old romance. The 
back garden, half an orchard, was bordered along a side 
street by a high wall, and over that a broad cherry used 
to lean a gnarled branch and shower its blossoms upon 
the asphalte; the foot-passengers complained of the tree 
which had grown without foreknowledge of the fact that 
men would pass below in silk hats, and the branch was 
lopped. In the shop itself everything was for sale, 
everything that officious travellers could foist upon the 
little weak-eyed half- farmer, half-gardener who kept the 



62 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

shop — hoisery, leather bags, purses, cheap jewellery, fish- 
ing-tackle, cricket-bats, umbrellas, walking-sticks. A 
staircase led out of the shop to the bedrooms, just as it 
had done when the window on the narrow landing looked 
over hay-fields to Banstead Downs. When the cat was 
not lying upon the socks in the window, she had, very 
likely, been kept away by a litter of kittens somewhere 
among the seldom disturbed bundles of unfashionable ties, 
or she lay in the sun beneath the lime and watched her 
kittens pursuing the spiral flight of the yellow leaves. 

The owner made no concessions except such as he 
was forced to, as when he bought the stock of jewellery 
because the traveller praised his cat; or allowed the cherry 
tree to be mutilated because the new Borough Council 
commanded. He dressed in breeches, gaiters and heavy 
boots, and never wore a coat or took his pipe out of his 
mouth (except to play with puss). Seldom did he leave 
the house, unless it was to go into the garden or to take 
a walk down the emptied busy street at night, when the 
only sound was the crickets' song from the bakers' shops. 
The little old house rippled over by creeper was beautiful 
then — the lime tree and the creeper trembling in the 
gusty moonlight, and the windows and doorway hollow 
and dark and romantic as if a poet had made them to 
sting men's hearts with beauty and with regret. 

No one can ever say what the old man thought as 
he slammed the door after one of these walks and was 
alone with himself. Certainly he regretted the big 
decorous high-gated houses that used to stand opposite 
his, veiled by wistaria, passion flower and clematis; the 
limes that used to run the whole length of his father's 



AN ADVENTURER 63 

land, but now all gone, save this one (how lovely its 
fallen leaves looked in the as yet untrodden streets in 
autumn mornings, lying flat and moistly golden under the 
fog!); the balsam growing through the railings; the dark 
yew tree that looked among bright lilac and laburnum 
like a negro among the women in the Arabian Nights; 
the pathway through the churchyard, in the days before 
they had to rail it in to preserve the decent turf — in vain, 
for it was now littered with newspapers and tram-tickets 

among the tombs of Esquire, Esquire, for they 

were all esquires. He regretted the houses and gardens, 
but less than their people, the men and women of some 
ease and state, of speech whose kindliness was thrice kind 
through its careful dignity, so he thought. And then the 
children, there were no such children now; and the young 
men and women, the men a little alarming, the women 
strong and lovely and gentle enough to supply him with 
incarnations at once of all those whom he read of in the 
novels of Scott. They had gone long ago, except those 
who survived vaguely in the novels. He remembered 
their houses better, for it was not until after some years 
that they were pulled down, their orchards grubbed up, 
and their rich mould carried away in sacks to the trumpery ,? 
villas round about — dragged along the road and spilt in 
^ a long black trail. It was wonderful dark mould, and 
the thought of the apples, the plums, the nectarines, the 
roses which had grown out of it made him furious when 
it was taken" to their gardens by people who would be 
gone in a year or less, and would grow in it nothing but 
nasturtiums and sunflowers. 

There followed a period when, the old attitudes, the 



64 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

things that had been handed down from the last revolu- 
tion, having been broken up, the gardens became a 
possession of nettles and docks, and fewer and fewer were 
the crown-imperials and hollyhocks to survive the fall of 
the houses. The scaffold-poles, the harsh blocks of stone, 
the rasping piles of bricks, the scores of cold earthenware 
and iron articles belonging to the rows of villas about to 
replace the old houses, looked more like ruin than pre- 
paration as they lay stark and hideous among the misty 
grass and still blue elms. There were days when the 
thrushes still sang well among the rioting undisturbed 
shrubberies. But soon men felled the elms and drove 
away their shadows for ever, and all that dwelled or could 
be imagined therein. No more would the trees be 
enchanted by the drunken early songs of blackbirds. 
The heavenly beauty of earthly things went away upon 
the timber carriages and was stamped with mud. The 
butts of the trees were used to decorate the gardens of 
the new houses. Two, indeed, were spared by some one's 
folly, and a main bough fell in the night and crushed 
through a whole fortnight's brickwork. 

Those elms had come unconsciously to be part of the 
real religion of men in that neighbourhood, and certainly 
of that old man. Their cool green voices as they swayed, 
their masses motionless against the evening or the summer 
storms, created a sense of pomp and awe. They gave 
mystic invitations that stirred his blood if not his slowly 
working humble brain, and helped to build and to keep 
firm that sanctuary of beauty to which we must be able 
to retire if we are to be more than eaters and drinkers 
and newspaper readers. When they were gone he won- 



AN ADVENTURER 65 

dered, still humbly, what would do their work in the 
minds of the newcomers. Looking at the features of 
the younger people, held in a vice of reserve or pallidly 
leering, and hearing the snarl of their voices, he was not 
surprised. They had not been given a chance. How 
could they have the ease, the state, the kindliness of the 
old inhabitants? They had no gods, only a brand-new 
Gothic church. Often they supported this or that new 
movement, or bought a brave new book, but they con- 
tinued to sneer timidly or brutally at everything else. 
They were satisfied with a little safe departure from the 
common way, some mental or spiritual equivalent to the 
door-knocker of imitation hammered copper. They did 
not care very much for trees though they planted them 
in every street, where the grammar-school boys and 
errand-boys mutilated them one by one in the dark; they 
cut off the heads of a score of tall poplars, lest perchance 
the west wind should one day do the same thing when 
one of the million was passing below. 

The new people were a mysterious, black-liveried host, 
the grandchildren of peers, thieves, gutter-snipes, agricul- 
tural labourers, artisans, shopkeepers, professional men, 
farmers, foreign financiers, an unrelated multitude. They 
were an endless riddle to the old man. He used to stare 
at their houses as one might stare at a corpse in the hope 
of discovering that there was something alive there. They 
were as impenetrable as their houses, when at night the 
blinds of the lighted rooms were drawn and figures or 
parts of figures shot fantastically by. He read of their 
bankruptcies, their appointments, their crimes, their 
successes, unwittingly, in the newspapers. He could 

F 



66 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

never take ft as a matter of course to pass, to be con- 
tinually surrounded by, thousands of whom he knew 
nothing, to whom he was nothing. Well did they keep 
their secrets, this blank or shamefaced crowd of discreetly 
dressed people who might be anywhere to-morrow. 

He turned from them to his garden and cherry-tree, 
and thinking of those who had walked there, and in the 
long garden on the other side of the fence, he felt at 
home again, with his cat and her long line of descend- 
ants. That long garden had survived the big house to 
which it had belonged. A merchant had lived there with 
his family of four daughters, dark, tall women, whose 
;. pride and tender speech the old trees in their garden often 
recalled. All were beautiful, and they were most beauti- 
ful together. They walked, they rode, they played and 
read in the garden, and the old man could see them there. 
They were said to be clever and their father was wealthy. 
They were nearly always together, and as often as possible 
with him. They were a tribe apart, of extraordinary 
perfection of strength and grace, holding their own 
against the world. And yet, as the old man thought to 
himself, looking at their garden in the rain, not one of 
them was ever married. They had moved right into 
London after selling their house and land. They had 
come to his shop once or twice after and made an excuse 
for going into the garden : they looked into their 
own as if they had lost something there. Thinking of 
them he went into his shop and opened a book. A 
minute black insect, disturbed from among the leaves, 
crawled over and over the white page as he pretended to 
read; it went in zigzags half-an-inch long, lost in the 



AN ADVENTURER 67 

black and white desert, sometimes turning the sharp edge 
and going to the other side of the page; but as a rule the 
edge alarmed it and it retreated; it was never still. It 
reminded him of himself. They were both lost upon the 
vast surface of the earth. 

But, of course, that was not why he left. Nobody 
knew why he left. In his seventieth year he ran away, 
bursting out of the crowd as one sheep no braver than the 
rest will do sometimes, inexplicably. He has brought his 
cats with him, and he has money enough to last until he is 
dead. Being considered by his niece as of unsound mind, 
he is free to do as he will and is happy when he is alone. 



F 2 



CHAPTER V 

SUSSEX 

A FEW miles south of that great presiding pollard 
beech is the boundary line between Surrey and Kent on 
the north and Sussex on the south. A few miles over 
the line the moorland organ roll of heather and birch and 
pine succeeds the grassy undulations and the well-grown 
beech and oak. The yellow roving lines of the paths cut 
through the heather into the sand add to the wildness of the 
waste, by their suggestion of mountain torrents and of chan- 
nels worn in the soft rock or clay by the sea. The same 
likeness in little is often to be seen upon a high-pitched 
roof of thatch when the straw is earth-coloured and 
tunnelled by birds and seamed by rain. Here the houses 
are of stone, unadorned, heather-thatched. The maker 
of birch-heath brooms plies his trade. There are stacks 
of heath and gorse in the yard. All the more fair are 
the grooves in the moorland, below the region of pines, 
where the tiled white-boarded mill stands by the sheen 
of a ford, and the gorse is bright and white clothes are 
blowing over neat gardens and the first rose. On a day 
of rain and gloom the answer of the gorse to sudden 
lights and heats is delicious; all those dull grey and 
glaucous and brown dry spines bursting into cool and 
fragrant fire is as great a miracle as the turning of flames 
to roses round a martyr's feet. 

It is only too easy for the pheasant lords to plant larch 
in parallelograms : to escape from them it is necessary to 

68 



SUSSEX 69 

go in amongst them. Yet there are parts of the forest 
large and dark and primeval in look, with a few poor 
isolated houses and a thin file of telegraph posts crossing 
it among the high gloomy pines and down to the marshy 
hollows, to the strewn gold of dwarf willows, and up 
again to the deserted wooden windmill, the empty boarded 
cottage, the heather-thatched sheds at the southern edge 
of the moor. Looking at this tract of wild land the mind 
seems to shed many centuries of civilization and to taste 
something of the early man's alarm in the presence of 
the uncultured hills — an alarm which is in us tempered 
so as to aid an impression of the sublime. Its influence 
lingers in the small strips of roadside gorse beyond its 
proper boundary. Then, southward, there are softly dip- 
ping meadows, fields of young corn, and oaks thrown 
among the cowslips. The small farmhouses are neat 
and good — one has a long stone wall in front, and, over 
the road, tall Scotch firs above a green pond dappled by 
the water crowfoot's white blossoms and bordered by 
sallow and rush. Narrow copses of oak or wide hedges 
of hazel and sallow line the road; and they are making 
cask hoops under lodges of boughs at the woodsides. 
Bluebells and primroses and cuckoo flowers are not to 
be counted under the trees. The long moist meadows flow 
among the woods up and down from farm to farm and 
spire to tower. Each farmhouse group is new — this one 
is roofed and walled with tiles; and opposite is a tangle 
of grass and gorse, with fowls and hen-coops amongst it, 
a sallowy pond, a pile of faggots, some crooked knees of 
oak, some fresh-peeled timber : old grey hop poles lean 
in a sheaf all round a great oak. The gates are of good 



70 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

unpainted oak, and some few are of a kind not often seen 
elsewhere, lower than a hurdle and composed of two 
stout parallel bars united by twenty uprights and by two 
pieces meeting to form a V across these. The gates 
deserve and would fill a book by themselves. 

Green lucent calipers of flags shadow one another in 
little wayside ponds, white-railed; for this is the Weald, 
the land of small clay ponds. The hazels are the nightin- 
gale's. In many of the oak woods the timber carriages 
have carved a way through primroses and bluebells deep 
into the brown clay. The larger views are of cloudy 
oak woods, ridge behind ridge, and green corn or grass 
and grey ploughland between; and of the sun pouring 
a molten cataract out of dark machicolated clouds on to 
one green field that glows a moment and is insignificant 
again : the lesser are of little brambly precipitous sand- 
pits by the road, of a white mill at a crossing, of carved 
yews before black-timbered irms, of a starling that has 
learned the curlew's call perched on a cottage roof, of 
abeles all rough silver with opening leaf shivering along 
the grass-bordered evening road, of two or three big oaks 
in a meadow corner and in their shadow unblemished 
parsley and grasses bowed as if rushing in the wind. At 
an inn door stands a young labourer, tall and straight but 
loosely made, his nose even and small, his eyes blue and 
deep set, his lips like those of Antinous, his face ruddy 
and rough-grained, his hair short and brown and crisp upon 
his fair round head; his neck bound by a voluminous 
scarf (with alternate lozenges of crimson and deep green 
divided by white lines) that is gathered beneath his chin 
by a brass ring and thence flows down under his blue 



SUSSEX .^-^71 

coat; his trousers of grey cord, dirty and patched with 
diab to a weathered stone colour, fitting almost tightly 
to his large thighs and calves and reaching not too near 
to his small but heavily-shod feet. A prince — a slave. 
He is twenty, unmarried, sober, honest, a noble animal. 
He goes into a cottage that stands worn and old and 
without a right angle in its timbers or its thatch any 
more than in its apple trees and solitary quince which all 
but hide the lilac and massed honesty of the little garden. 
This is a house — I had almost said this is a man — that 
looked upon England when it could move men to such 
songs as, " Come, live with me and be my love," or — 

" Hey, down a down ! " did Dian sing, 

Amongst her virgins sitting ; 
"Than love there is no vainer thing. 

For maidens most unfitting." 
And so think I, with a down, down derry. 

For a moment or less as he goes under the porch I seem 
to see that England, that swan's nest, that island which a 
man's heart was not too big to love utterly. But now 
what with Great Britain, the British Empire, Britons, 
Britishers, and the English-speaking world, the choice 
offered to whomsoever would be patriotic is embarrassing, 
and he is fortunate who can find an ideal England of 
the past, the present, and the future to worship, and 
embody it in his native fields and waters or his garden, 
as in a graven image. 

The round unending Downs are close ahead, and upon 
the nearest hill a windmill beside a huge scoop in the 
chalk, a troop of elms below, and then low-hedged fields 
of grass and wheat. The farms are those of the down- 



rr^ 



72 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

land. One stands at the end of the elm troop that 
swerves and clusters about its tiled roof, grey cliff of 
chimney-stack, and many gables; the stables with newer 
tiles; the huge slope of the barn; the low mossy cart-lodge 
and its wheels and grounded shafts; the pale straw stacks 
and the dark hay ricks with leaning ladders. A hundred 
sheep-bells rush by with a music of the hills in the wind. 
The larks are singing as if they never could have done 
by nightfall. It is now the hour of sunset, and windy. 
All the sky is soft and dark-grey-clouded except where 
the sun, just visible and throbbing in its own light, looks 
through a bright window in the west with a glow. 
Exactly under the sun the grass and wheat is full both 
of the pure effulgence and of the south-west wind, 
rippling and glittering : there is no sun for anything else 
save the water. North of the sun and out of its power 
lies a lush meadow, beyond it a flat marshland cut by 
several curves of bright water, above that a dark church 
on a wooded mound, and then three shadowy swoops of 
Down ending at a spire among trees. 

South-west, the jagged ridgy cluster of a hillside town, 
a mill and a castle, stand dark and lucid, and behind them 
the mere lines of still more distant downs. 



b 



CHAPTER VI 

A RETURN TO NATURE 

I TURN into my next inn with unusual hopes. For 
it was here some years ago that I met for the first time 
a remarkable man. It was nine o'clock on a late July 
evening, and the haymakers, only just set free, came 
stamping into the bar. The last waggon-load stopped 
at the door while the red-whiskered carter stood, one hand 
on the latch, and drank his pint before leading his horses 
into the stall. After the haymakers, in their pale 
corduroys and dirty white slops, came a tall, spare, shock- 
headed man, not recently shaved, dressed in grey — grey 
coat, grey breeches and stockings, and a tall, hard felt hat 
that was old and grey. He called for sixpenny ale, and 
wiping the hay dust from his neck sat down beside me. 

No, he is not here to-day. Perhaps he will never get 
out of London again. 

I asked him the way to the nearest village, and whether 
a bed was to be had there. He answered that it was 
some way off — paused, looked at me, drank from his 
tankard — and added in a lower voice that he would be 
glad if I would come and share his place. Such an 
unusual invitation enforced assent. 

A quarter of a mile down the next by-way he opened 
a little oaken gate that slammed after us, and there, in a 
corner of a small, flat field, was his sleeping place, under 
an oak. Would I care to join him in fried bacon and 
broad beans and tea at six the next morning? 

73 



74 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

He lit a wisp of hay and soon had a fire burning, and 
brought over some hay and sacks for the second bed. 
The h'ghts of the farmhouse shone on the other side of 
the h'ttle field behind lilac bushes. The farmhouse pump 
gave out a cry like a guinea fowl for a few minutes. 
Then the lights went out. I asked the name of the farm 
and he told me. 

" I come here almost every summer for the haymak- 
ing," he said, and detecting my surprise that it was not 
his first year of haymaking, he continued — 

" It is my tenth summer, to be exact." 

He was a man of hardly over thirty, and I noticed 
that his hands, though small and fine, were rough and 
warty and dark. Thoughtlessly I remarked that he must 
find the winter hard if he travelled like this all the year 
round. 

" Yes," he said, with a sigh, " it is, and that is why I 
go back in the winter; at least partly why." 

"Go back ?" 



" Yes, to London." 

I was still perplexed. He had the air of a town-bred 
man of the clerkly class, but no accent, and I could not 
think what he did in London that was compatible with 
his present life. 

" Are you a Londoner, then ? " 

" Yes, and no. I was born at the village of in 

Caermarthenshire. My father was a clerk in a coal 
merchant's office of the neighbouring town. But he 
thought to better himself, worked hard in the evenings 
and came to London, when I was seven, for a better- 
paid post. We lived in Wandsworth in a small street 



A RETURN TO NATURE 75 

newly built. I went to a middle-class school close by 
until I was sixteen, and then I went into a silk merchant's 
office. My father died soon after. He had never been 
strong, and from the first year's work in the city, I have 
heard my mother say, he was a doomed man. He made 
no friends. While I was young he gave up all his spare 
time to me and was happy, wheeling me, my mother 
walking alongside, out into the country on every Sunday 
that was not soaking wet, and nearly every Saturday 
afternoon, too. 

" It was on one of these excursions, when they had 
left me to myself a little while to talk more gravely than 
they usually did when we were out like that, that there 
was suddenly opened before me — like a yawning pit, 
yet not only beneath me but on every side — infinity, end- 
less time, endless space; it was thrust upon me, I could 
not grasp it, I only closed my eyes and shuddered and 
knew that not even my father could save me from it, 
then in a minute it was gone. To a more blessed child 
some fair or imposing vision might have risen up out of 
the deep and given him a profounder if a sadder eye for 
life and the world. How unlike it was to the mystic's 
trance, feeling out with infinite soul to earth and stars 
and sea and remote time and recognizing his oneness with 
them. To me, but later than that, this occasionally 
recurring experience was as an intimation of the endless 
pale road, before and behind, which the soul has to travel : 
it was a terror that enrolled me as one of the helpless, 
superfluous ones of the earth. 

"I was their only child that lived, and my father's 
joy in me was very great, equalled only by his misery at 



76 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

the life which he had to lead and which he foresaw for 
me. He used to read to me, waking me up for the pur- 
pose sometimes when he reached home late, or if he did 
not do that rousing me an hour before breakfast. His 
favourite books were The Compleat Angler and 
Lavengro, the poems of Wordsworth, the diaries of 
Thoreau and the Natural History of Selhorne. I remem- 
ber crying — when I was twelve — with despair of human 
nature's fickleness to think that White, even though he 
was an old man, could have it in his heart to write that 
farewell to natural history at the end of his last letter 
to Barrington. My father read these books to me several 
times in a sad, hoarse voice — as it seemed to me, though 
when he paused he was happy enough — which 1 had often 
great trouble to endure as I got older and able and willing 
to read for myself. So full was I of a sense of the real 
wild country which I had never seen — the Black Moun- 
tains of Caermarthen I hardly recalled — that I became 
fanciful, and despised the lavish creeper that hung like a 
costly dress over the fence between our garden and the 
next, because the earth it grew m was not red earth but 
a black pasty compound, full of cinders and mortar and 
decayed rags and kittens. I used to like to go to the 
blacksmith's to smell the singeing hoof and to the tram- 
stables and smell the horses, and see the men standing 
about '\x\ loose shirts, hanging braces, bare arms, clay pipes, 
with a sort of free look that I could not see elsewhere. 
The navvies at work in the road or on the railway line 
were a tremendous pleasure, and I noticed that the clerks 
waiting for their trains in the morning loved to watch 
these hulking free and easy men doing something that 



i 



A RETURN TO NATURE 77 

looked as if it mattered, not like their own ledger work 
and so on. I had the same sort of pleasure looking up 
the street that rose from east to west and seeing the sun 
set between the two precipices of brick wall at the top; 
it was as if a gate opened there and through it all the 
people and things that saddened me had disappeared and 
left me to myself; it was like the pit, too, that opened 
before me as a little child. 

"My father died of consumption. I was then just 
ble to earn my own living, so I was left in lodgings 
nd my mother returned to Wales. I worked hard at 
gures; at least I went early and stayed late and never 
stopped to talk to the others; yet I made frequent mis- 
takes, and the figures swam in a mist of American rivers 
and English waterfalls and gipsy camps, so that it was a 
wonder I could ever see my Thoreau and Wordsworth 
and Borrow without these figures. Fancy men adopting 
as a cry the * right to work ' ! Apparently they are too 
broken-spirited to think of a right to live, and would be 
content only to work. It is not wonderful that with 
such a cry they do very little. Men cannot fight hard 
for the * right to work ' as I did. My office was at the 
bottom of a pit. The four sides of the pit were walls 
with many windows, and I could hear voices speaking in 
the rooms behind and the click of typewriters, but could 
not see into them. Only for two or three days in June 
could I see the sun out of the pit. But in the hot days 
blue-bottles buzzed on my panes and I took care of them 
until one by one they lay dead upon the window ledge. 
There were no spiders and they seemed to have a good 
life. Sparrows sometimes flew up and down the pit, and 



78 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

once for a week I had the company of a black-and-white 
pigeon. It sat day after day in a hole in the opposite 
wall until it died and fell on to the paved yard below. 
The clouds sailed over the top of the pit. Sea-gulls flew 
over, all golden-winged, in October afternoons. I liked 
the fog when all the lights were lit, and though we 
did not know one another in the pit we seemed to keep 
one another company. But I liked the rain best of all. 
It used to splash down from all sides and make a country 
noise, and I looked up and saw the quaint cowls sitting 
like cats on the chimney-pots, and had ridiculous fancies 
that took me far away for a second or two. 

" The worst time of all was two or three years after 
my father's death. I spent most of my poor earnings 
on clothes; I took the trouble to talk and smoke and 
think as much as possible like the other nine young 
men in the railway carriage that took me into the city; 
I learned their horrible, cowardly scorn for those who 
were poor or outlandish, and for all things that were not 
like those in their own houses or in those of the richer 
people of their acquaintance or envy. We were slaves, 
and we gilded our collars." 

" But the journalist and hack writer," said I, " is worslf^ 
off. At least your master only asked for your dregs. 
The hack writer is asked to give everything that can be 
turned into words at short notice, and so the collar round 
his neck is never taken off as yours was between six in 
the afternoon and nine in the morning." 

"Ah, but it is open to you to do good or bad. We 
could only do bad. All day we were doing things which 
we did not understand, which could not in any way con- 



A RETURN TO NATURE 79 

cern us, which had nothing to do with what we had been 
taught at school, had read in books or had heard from 
our fathers and mothers. When he was angry the head 
of the firm used to say we had better take care or a 
machine would supersede us in ten years instead of 
twenty. We had been driven out of life into a corner in 
an underground passage where everything was unnecessary 
that did not help us to be quick at figures, or taking down 
letters from dictation, or neat in dress and obedient to 
the slaves who were set over us. When we were out of 
the office we could do nothing which unfitted us for it. 
The head of the firm used to say that we were each 
' playing a part, however humble, in the sublime machine 
of modern civilization, that not one of us was unneces- 
sary, and that we must no more complain or grow restive 
than does the earth because it is one of the least elements 
in this majestic universe.' We continued to be neat 
when we were away from the office, we were disobedient 
to everything and everybody else that was not armed with 
the power of taking away our bread — to the old, the 
poor, the children, the women, the ideas which we had 
never dreamed of, and that came among us as a white 
blackbird comes in the winter to a barbarous parish where 
keeper and gardener and farmer go out with their guns 
and stalk it from hedge to hedge until, starved and con- 
spicuous and rather apart from its companions, it falls to 
their beastly shot and is sold to one of the gentry who 
puts it into a glass case. 

" Sometimes on a Saturday or Sunday I broke away in 
a vague unrest, and walked alone to the pretty places 
where my father and mother had taken me as a little boy. 



8o THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

Most of them I had not seen for five or six years. My 
visits vi^ere often formal. I w^alked out and was glad 
to be back to the lights of the street, the strong tea, the 
newspaper and the novel. But one day I went farther 
than usual to a wood where we used to go without inter- 
ference and, after finding all the blackbirds' and thrushes' 
and robins' nests within reach, boil a kettle and have tea. 
I had never in that wood seen any man or woman except 
my father and mother; never heard a voice except theirs — 
my father perhaps reading Wordsworth aloud— and the 
singing birds' and the moorhens' in the pond at the edge; 
it used to shut out everything but what I had learned to 
love most, sunshine and wind and flowers and their love. 
When I saw it again I cried; I really could not help it. 
For a road had been made alongside of it, and the builder's 
workmen going to and fro had made a dozen gaps in the 
hedge and trodden the wood backward and forward and 
broken down the branches and made it noisome. Worse 
than all, the field, the golden field where I used to lie 
among the buttercups and be alone with the blue sky — 
where I first felt the largeness and dearness and nearness 
of the blue sky as a child of eight and put up my hand 
in my delight to draw it through the soft blue substance 
that seemed so near — the field was enclosed, a chapel 
built; it was a cemetery for all the unknown herd, strange 
to one another, strange to every one else, that filled the 
new houses spreading over the land. 

" At first I was for running away at once. But the 
sight made me faint-hearted and my legs dragged, and 
it was all I could do to get home — I mean, to my 
lodgings. 



A RETURN TO NATURE 8i 

" However, I was quite different after that. I was 
ashamed of my ways, and now spent all my spare time 
and money in going out into the country as far as possible, 
and reading the old books and the new ones that I could 
hear of in the same spirit. I lived for these things. It 
was now that I knew my slavery. Everything reminded 
me of it. The return half of my railway ticket to the 

country said plainly, ' You have got to be back at 

not later than 10.39 P-"^-' Then I used to go a different 
way back or even walk the whole way to avoid having 
this thing in my pocket that proclaimed me a slave. 

" It was now that I first accepted the invitation of a 
relation who lived on the east coast very near the sea. 
The sea had a sandy shore bounded by a perpendicular 
sandy cliff, to the edge of which came rough moorland. 
The sea washed the foot of the cliff at high tide and 
swept the yellow sand clean twice a day, wiping away all 
footprints and leaving a fresh arrangement of blue pebbles 
glistering in the bitter wind. It was impossible to be 
more alone than on this sand, and I was contented again. 
The sea brought back the feelings I had when I lay in 
the buttercup field — the cemetery — and looked into the 
sky. Walking over the moor the undulations of the land 
hid and revealed the sea in an always unexpected way, 
and often as I turned suddenly I seemed to see the blue 
sky extended so as to reach nearly to my feet and half- 
way up it went small brown or white clouds like birds- 
like ships — in fact they were ships sailing on a sea that 
mingled with the sky. It seemed a beautiful life, where 
clouds could not help being finely spun or carved, or 
pebbles help being delicious to eye and touch. But out 

G 



82 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

of the extremity of my happiness came my worst grief. 
I fell in love. I fell in love with one of my cousins, a 
girl of seventeen. She never professed to return my love, 
but she was a most true friend, and for a time I was 
intoxicated with the delight; I now envy even the brief 
moment of pain and misery that I had in those days. 

" She was clever and understanding so that I was always 
at my best with her, and yet, too, she was as sweet as a 
child and strange as an animal. The few moments of 
pain were when I saw her with the other girls. When 
they were together, running on the sands or talking or 
dancing they seemed all to be one, like the wind; and 
sometimes I thought that like the wind they had no heart 
amongst them — except mine that raced with the runners 
and sighed among the laughers. It was lovely to see her 
with animals! with cows or horses, her implicit mother- 
hood going out to them in an animal kindness, a bluff 
tenderness without thought. At times I looked carefully 
and solemnly into her eyes until I was lost in a curious 
pleasure like that of walking in a shadowy, still, cold 
place, a cathedral or wintry grove — she had the largest 
of dark grey eyes; and she did not turn away or smile, 
but looked fearlessly forward, careless and unashamed 
like a deep pool in a wood unused to wayfarers. Then 
she seemed so much a child, and I longed for the days 
(which I had never really had) when I could have been 
as careless and bold and free as she was. No, I could 
never teach those eyes and lips the ways of love : that 
was for some boy to do. And I thought I will be con- 
tent to love her and to have her friendliness. I was old 
for my years, and my life without the influence of women 



A RETURN TO NATURE 83 

in office and lodgings, I thought, had made me unfit for 
her delicate ways. I turned away and the sunny ships 
in the sea were mournful because of my thoughts. But I 
could not wait. I told her my love. She was not angry 
or indifferent. She did not reject it. She was afraid. 
They sent her away to college. She overworked and 
overplayed, and they have told me she is now a school- 
mistress. I see her sad and firm with folded hands. 
When I knew her she was tall and straight, with long 
brown hair in two heavy plaits, a shining, rounded brow, 
dark-lashed, grey eyes, and a smile of inexpressible sweet- 
ness in which I once or twice surprised her, pleased with 
the happiness and beauty of her thoughts and of Nature. 
" When I had lost her, or thought I had — 

Not comforted to live 
But that there is this jewel in the world 
Which I may see again 

I resolved that I would not be a slave any more. For 
a few weeks I used to fancy it was only by a chance I 
had lost her, and every now and then as I mused over it 
I got heated and my thoughts raced forward as if in the 
hope of overtaking and averting that very evil chance 
which had already befallen, and had in fact caused the 
train of thought. 

*' I saved every penny that I could from my salary. 
In six months I had saved twenty pounds. Out of this 
I bought a new black suit, a pair of boots and a hat, and 
gave them to my landlady and asked her to take care of 
them until I returned, which might be at the end of 
October. It was then April. I gave notice to my 
employers and left them. The next day very early I 
G 2 



84 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

left London, and walked all day and all night until I 
reached the sea. There I bathed and ate a hearty meal, 
and walking along the cliffs till I came to a small farm- 
house I engaged a bedroom, and there I slept and thought 
and slept undisturbed for twenty-four hours. I was free. 
I was free to dream myself no longer one of the mob- 
led mob. With care my money would last until mid- 
summer, even if I did no work. 

" It was a warm, wet May, and by the end of the 
month there was a plentiful crop of weeds, and I had no 
difficulty in getting work at hoeing. Strawberry picking 
and cherry picking followed. I was very slow and 
earned little, but it was now warm enough to sleep out, 
and I earned my food. By the end of July, as I liked 
the work, I was as useful with my hayrake as any of the 
women and better than most of the odd hands. I wore 
my fingers raw at tying up barley and oats and, later on, 
at feeding the threshing machine. But before the end of 
October the weather drove me back to London, with ten 
shillings in my pocket. 

" I put on my new clothes and got as good a berth as 
my first one, and in the hope of another spring and 
summer out of doors I passed the winter cheerfully. To 
save more money I went to bed as soon as I got back 
to my lodgings, and read myself to sleep. 

" In May a spell of fine weather drove me to give 
notice again, and I walked as far as Maidstone the first 
day. My second summer was like my first. I was 
already known at half-a-dozen farms. When they could 
not give me work at once they gave me leave to fish in 
the three or four ponds to be found on all the farms 



A RETURN TO NATURE 85 

in the Weald of Kent, and I had many a large, if not 
always savoury, meal of tench and eels. At the end of 
the summer I had three pounds in my pocket, and little 
less by the end of October. 

" The winter I passed as before. For five years I lived 
in this way. Then, for the sake of going abroad on my 
savings, I worked for a whole year at a desk, and spent 
four months along the Loire and down to Bordeaux; 
from there I worked my passage to Newport. Since 
then I have gone back to rny old plan." 

Here he paused and mused. I asked him if he still 
found it easy to get work in London. 

"No, that's it," he replied; "my handwriting is worse 
and it is slow. The first weeks in London seem to undo 
all the good of my summer outing, especially as my salary 
is less than it used to be. They begin to ask me if I am 
a married man when I apply for work. The November 
rains remind me that I have rheumatism. It is my great 
fear that I may need a doctor, and so spend my savings, 
and be unable to leave London until field work is plenti- 
ful in June. But I have my freedom; I could, if neces- 
sary, take an under-cowman's place and live entirely on 
the land. They begin to look at my hands when I apply 
for clerical work, and I can't wear gloves." 

" And ten years hence ? " 

" That is ten years too far ahead for me to look, though 
I am less cheerful than I used to be. I realize that I 
belong to the suburbs still. I belong to no class or race, 
and have no traditions. We of the suburbs are a muddy, 
confused, hesitating mass, of small courage though much 
endurance. As for myself, I am world-conscious, and 



86 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

hence suffer unutterable loneliness. I know what bitter- 
ness it is to be lacking in those strong tastes and impulses 
which, blinding men to what does not concern them, 
enables them to live with a high heart. For example, I 
have a sensitive palate and am glad of my food, yet when- 
ever I taste Iamb — which I do when I can — my pleasure 
is spoilt by the sight of the butcher carrying a lamb under 
his arm. There it is. I am sensitive on all sides. Your 
true man would either forget the sight or he would be 
moved to a crusade. I can do neither. 

" I am weary of seeing things, the outsides of things, 
for I see nothing else. It makes me wretched to think 
what swallows are to many children and poets and other 
men, while to me they are nothing but inimitable, com- 
pact dark weights tumbling I do not know how through 
the translucent air — nothing more, and yet I know they 
are something more. I apprehend their weight, buoyancy 
and velocity as they really are, but I have no vision. 
Then it is that I remember those words of Sir Thomas 
Browne's — 

*" I am sure there is a common spirit that plays within 
us, yet makes no part in us; and that it is the Spirit of 
God, the fire and scintillation of that noble and mighty 
essence, which is the life and radical heat of spirits. . . . 
This is that gentle heat that brooded on the waters and in 
six days hatched the world; this is that irradiation that 
dispels the mists of hell, the clouds of horror, fear, sorrow, 
despair; and preserves the region of the mind in serenity. 
Whosoever feels not the warm gale and gentle ventila- 
tion of this spirit (though I feel his pulse) I dare not say 
he lives; for truly without this, to me there is no heat 
under the tropic; nor any light, though I dwell in the 
body of the sun.* 



A RETURN TO NATURE 87 

" I dare not say I live. And yet the cows, the well-fed, 
quiet cows, in this fine soft weather stare enviously at 
me through the gate, though they know nothing of death, 
and I know it must come, and that even though often 

desired, when it comes it will be unwelcome Yet 

they stare enviously at me, I am sure. 

" I have no courage. I can at least endure. I can use 
my freedom to become a slave again, and at least I know 
that I have lost nothing by my way of living. Yes, I 
can endure, and if after my death I am asked questions 
difficult to answer, I can ask one that is unanswerable 
which I have many times asked myself — often in London, 
but not here. Here I love my food and my work, my 
rest. My dreams are good. I am not unkindly spoken 
to; I make no enemies. 

" But yet I cannot look forward — there is nothing 
ahead — ^just as I cannot look back. My people have not > 
built; they were not settled on the earth; they did 
nothing; they were oil or grit in a great machine; they 
took their food and shelter modestly and not ungratefully 
from powers above that were neither kind nor cruel. I 
hope I do no less; I wish I could do more. 

" Now again returns that old feeling of my childhood 
— I felt it when I had left my cousin — I have felt it 
suddenly not only in London, but on the top of the 
Downs and by the sea; the immense loneliness of the 7 
world, as if the next moment I might be outside of all 
visible things. You know how it is, on a still summer 
evening, so warm that the ploughman and his wife have 
not sent their children to bed, and they are playing, and 
their loud voices startle the thought of the woods; my 



88 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

feeling is like that, space and quiet and my own littleness 
stupendously exaggerated. I have wished I could lay 
down my thoughts and desires and noises and stirrings 
and cease to trouble that great peace. It was, perhaps, of 
this loneliness that the Psalmist spoke : * My days are 
consumed like smoke. ... I watch, and am as a sparrow 
alone on the housetop.' The world is wrong, but the 
night is fine; the dew light and the moist air is full of the 
honeysuckle scent. I will smoke another pipe of your 
tobacco and leave you for a while. I like to be alone 
before I sleep." 

The next I saw of him was when he was frying bacon 
and boiling beans for our meal. " Forget my night 
thoughts," he said, "and be thankful for the white dry 
road and the blue sky. We are not so young but that 
we must be glad it is summer and fine. As for me, the 
dry weather is so sweet that I like the smell of elder 
flower and the haycart horses' dung and the dust that get 
into the throat of an evening. Good-bye." 

He went away to wash at the pump, as the cattle spread 
out from the milking-stalls into the field and filled it with 
their sweet breath and the sound of their biting the thick 
grass. 

I saw him again a few years later. 

London was hot and dry, and would have been 
parched, cracked and shrivelled had it been alive instead 
of dead. The masonry was so dry that the eye wearied 
of it before the feet wearied of the pavement, and 
both desired the rain that makes the city at one with 
Nature. The plane-trees were like so many captives 
along the streets, shackled to the flagstones, pelted with 



A RETURN TO NATURE 89 

dust, humiliated, all their rusticity ravished though not 
forgotten. The very sky, lofty, blue, white-clouded, was 
parched, the blue and the white being soiled by a hot, 
yellowish-grey scum that harmonizes with gritty pave- 
ments and stark towers and spires. The fairest thing to 
be seen — away from the river — was the intense young 
green of the grass-blades trying to grow up through the 
gratings which surround the trees of the streets. The 
grass was a prophet muttering wild, ambiguous things, y 
and since his voice was very small and came from under- 
ground, it was hard to hear him, even without understand- 
ing. Thousands tread down the grass, so that except for 
a few hours at night it can never emerge from the grating. 

Some vast machinery plunged and thundered behind 
the walls, but though they trembled and grew hot, it 
burst not through. Even so the multitude in the streets, 
of men and horses and machines and carriages of all kinds, 
roared and moved swiftly and continuously, encaged within 
walls that are invisible; and they also never burst through. 
Both are free to do what they are told. All of the crowd 
seem a little more securely imprisoned than him who 
watches, because he is aware of his bars; but they move 
on, or seem to do, on and on, round and round, as 
thoughtless as the belt of an engine. 

There was not one face I knew; not one smiled; not 
one relaxed or contracted with a thought, an emotion, a 
fancy; but all were clear, hard, and fixed in a vice, so 
that though they were infinite in their variety — na two 
eyebrows set the same way, no two mouths in the same 
relation to the eyes — the variety seemed the product of a 
senseless ingenuity and immense leisure, as of a sublime 



90 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

philatelist. Hardly one spoke; only the women moved 
from left to right instead of straight on, and their voices 
were inaudible when their lips moved. The roar in 
which all played a part developed into a kind of silence 
which not any one of these millions could break; the sea 
does not absorb the little rivers more completely than this 
silence the voices of men and women, than this solitude 
their personalities. Now and then a face changed, an 
eyebrow was cocked, or a mouth fell; but it meant less 
to me than the flutter as of a bird when drop by drop 
the rain drips from the beeches and gives a plash and a 
trembling to one leaf and then another in the under- 
growth. There is a more than human force in the move- 
ment of the multitude, more than the sum of all the 
forces in the arched necks, the grinding chest muscles, 
and the firm feet of the horses, the grace of the bright 
women, the persistency of the tall men and thick men. 
They cannot stop. They look stupid or callous or blank 
or even cruel. They are going about another's business; 
they conceal their own, hiding it so that they forget (as 
a drunkard forgets where he has hidden his gold) where 
they have hidden it, hiding their souls under something 
stiffer and darker than the clothing of their bodies. It is 
hard to understand why they do not sometimes stop one 
another, to demand where the soul and the soul's business 
is hid, to snatch away the masks. It was intolerable that 
they were not known to me, that I was not known to 
them, that we should go on like waves of the sea, obey- 
ing whatever moon it is that sends us thundering on the 
unscalable shores of night and day. Such force, such 
determination as moved us along the burning streets might 



A RETURN TO NATURE 91 

scale Olympus. Where was he who could lead the 
storming-party ? 

Between a pack of cabs and a pack of 'buses there was 
a quiet space of fifty yards in length; for a little while it 
seemed that the waves were refusing their task. There 
was not one black coat, not one horse, not one brightly 
loaded 'bus : no haste. It was a procession. 

In front marched a tall son of man, with white 
black-bearded face, long black hair, more like plumage 
than hair in its abundance and form, and he wore no hat. 
He walked straight as a soldier, but with long, slow steps, 
and his head hung so that his bare breast supported it, for 
he had no coat and his shirt was half open. He had knee- 
breeches, bare dark legs, and shoes on his feet. His hands 
were behind his back, as if he were handcuffed. Two 
men walked beside him in other men's black clothes and 
black hats worn grey — two unnoticeable human beings, 
snub-nosed, with small, rough beards, dull eyes, shuffling 
gait. Two others followed them close, each carrying 
one of the poles of a small white banner inscribed with 
the words : " The Unemployed." These also were un- 
noticeable, thin, grey, bent, but young, their clothes, their 
faces, their hair, their hats almost the same dry colour as 
the road. It was impossible to say what their features were, 
because their heads hung down and their hats were drawn 
well on to their heads, and their eyes were unseen. They 
could not keep step, nor walk side by side, and their 
banner was always shaky and always awry. Next, in no 
order, came three others of the same kind, shambling like 
the rest, of middle height, moderately ill-dressed, moder- 
ately thin, their hands in their pockets. In one of these 



92 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

I recognized the man who was born in Caermarthenshire. 
A cart came close behind, drawn by a fat grey donkey 
who needed no driving, for the one who rode in the cart 
had his back to the shafts, and, leaning forward on a tub 
into which money was expected to be thrown, he appeared 
to be talking to those who trailed at the back, for he 
waved an arm and wagged his yellow beard. He was fat, 
and dressed in a silk hat, frock-coat and striped trousers, 
almost too ancient to be ridiculous had they not kept 
company with a jaunty pair of yellow boots. He was 
midway between a seaside minstrel and a minister, had 
not one gesture destroyed the resemblance by showing 
that he wore no socks. Round about his coat also were 
the words : " The Unemployed," repeated or crudely 
varied. Those whom he addressed were the fifteen or 
twenty who completed the procession but seemed not to 
listen. They were all bent, young or middle-aged men, 
fair-haired, with unintentional beards, road-coloured skins 
and slightly darker clothes. Many wore overcoats, the 
collars turned up, and some had nothing under them 
except a shirt, and one not that. All with hands in 
pockets, one carrying a pipe, all silent and ashamed, 
struggled onward with bent knees. No two walked 
together; there was no approach to a row or a column in 
their arrangement, nor was there any pleasing irregularity 
as of plants grown from chance-scattered seed; by no 
means could they have been made to express more feeble- 
ness, more unbrotherliness, more lack of principle, pur- 
pose or control. Each had the look of the meanest thief 
between his captors. Two blue, benevolent, impersonal 
policemen, large men, occasionally lifted their arms as if 



A RETURN TO NATURE 93 

to help forward the contemptible procession; sometimes, 
with a quick motion of the hand, they caused the strag- 
gling rear to double their pace for a few yards by run- 
ning with knees yet more bent and coat-tails flapping and 
hands still deep in pockets — only for a few yards, for 
their walking pace was their best, all having the same 
strength, the same middle height, the same stride, though 
no two could be seen keeping step. 

The traffic thickened, and amidst the horses that 
nodded and trampled and the motor-cars that fumed and 
fretted the procession was closed up into a grey block 
behind the donkey-cart. On one side of the donkey was 
the black-bearded man, his right arm now resting on the 
animal's neck; on the other side the policemen; in front 
the standard-bearers hung down their heads and held up 
their poles. Often the only remnant visible was the 
raven crest of the leader. 

The multitude on the pavement continued to press 
straight onward, or to flit in and out of coloured shops. 
None looked at the standard, the dark man and his cloudy 
followers, except a few of the smallest newspaper boys 
who had a few spare minutes and rushed over to march 
with them in the hope of music or a speech or a conflict. 
The straight flower-girl flashed her eyes as she stood on 
the kerb, her left arm curving with divine grace round 
the shawl-hidden child at her bosom, her left hand thrust 
out full of roses. The tender, well-dressed women lean- 
ing on the arms of their men smiled faintly, a little 
pitiful, but gladly conscious of their own security and 
pleasantness. Men with the historic sense glanced and 
noted the fact that there was a procession. One man. 



94 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

standing on the kerb, took a sovereign from his pocket, 
looked at it and then at the unemployed, made a little 
gesture of utter bewilderment, and dropping the coin 
down into the drain below, continued to watch. Com- 
fortable clerks and others of the servile realized that here 
were the unemployed about whom the newspapers had 
said this and that — (" a pressing question " — " a very 
complicated question not to be decided in a hurry " — " it 
is receiving the attention of some of the best intellects of 
the time " — " our special reporter is making a full investi- 
gation " — " who are the genuine and who are the im- 
postors ? " — " connected with Socialist intrigues ") — and 
they repeated the word " Socialism " and smiled at the 
bare legs of the son of man and the yellow boots of the 
orator. Next day they would smile again with pride that 
they had seen the procession which ended in feeble, 
violent speeches against the Army and the Rich, in four 
arrests and an imprisonment. For they spoke in voices 
gentle with hunger. They were angry and uttered 
curses. One waved an arm against a palace, an arm that 
could scarcely hold out a revolver even were all the kings 
sitting in a row to tempt him. In the crowd and disturb- 
ance the leader fell and fainted. They propped him in 
their arms and cleared a space about him. " Death of 
Nelson," suggested an onlooker, laughing, as he observed 
the attitude and the knee-breeches. " If he had only a 
crown of thorns . . ." said another, pleased by the group. 
" Wants a bit of skilly and real hard work," said a third. 



CHAPTER VII 

A RAILWAY CARRIAGE SURREY SUSSEX 

I LEFT London as quickly as possible. The railway 
carriage was nearly full of men reading the same news- 
papers under three or four different names, when a little 
grizzled and spectacled man of middle age entered — a 
printer, perhaps — with a twisted face and simple and 
puzzled expression that probably earned him many a laugh 
from street-corner boys. As he sat down he recognized a 
sailor, a tall, ponderous, kind-faced man made in three 
distinct storeys, who supported his enormous red hands 
upon knees each fit to have been the mould of a hero's 
helmet. 

" Well, I never did, and how are you, Harry ? " 

They looked at one another kindly but with a question 
piercing through the kindness and an effort to divine the 
unknowable without betraying curiosity. The kindness 
did, in fact, melt away the almost physical obstacle of 
twenty years spent apart and in ignorance of one another. 

" When did you leave the old place ? " said the sailor. 

"Soon after you did yourself, Harry; just after the 
shipwreck of the Wild Swan; twenty-one, twenty-two — 
yes, twenty-two years ago." 

" Is it so long ? I could have sworn you had that 
beard when I saw you last," and the sailor looked at him 
in a way that showed he had already bridged the twenty- 
two years and knew the man. 

"Yes, twenty-two years." 

" And do you ever go back to the old place ? How's 
Charlie Nash, and young Woolford, and the shepherd? " 

95 



I 

96 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

" Let me see " 

" But how is Maggie Looker ? " broke in the sailor 
upon a genial answer in the bud. 

" Oh, didn't you know ? She took ill very soon after 
you went away, and then they thought she was all right 
again; but they could not quite get rid of the cough, and 
it got bad in the winter, and all through the spring it 
was worse." 

" And so she died in the summer." 

" So she did." 

" Oh, Christ ! but what times we had." 

And then, in reminiscences fast growing gay — the mere 
triumph of memory, the being able to add each to the 
other's store, was a satisfaction — they told the story of a 
pretty country girl whom they had quarrelled over until 
she grew too proud for both; how heavy was her hair; 
how she could run, and nobody was like her for finding 
a wasps'-nest. Her boldness and carelessness filled them 
with envy still. 

" I reckon we old ones would call her a tomboy now," 
said the sailor. 

" I should say we would." 

" Now, I wonder what sort of a wife she would have 
made? " 

" Hum, I don't know . . ." 

" Do you remember that day her and you and me got 
lost in the forest ? " 

"Yes, and we were there all night, and I got a hiding 
for it." 

" Not Maggie." 

" Not poor Maggie." 

"And when we couldn't see our way any more we 



A RAILWAY CARRIAGE 97 

lifted her up into that old beech where the green wood- 
pecker's nest was." 

" Yes, and you took off your coat and breeches to 
cover her up." 

"And so did you, though I reckon one would have 
been enough now I come to think of it." 

" I don't know about that. But how we did have to 
keep on the move all night to keep warm." 

" And dared not go very far for fear of losing the 
tree." 

"And in the morning I wondered what we should do 
about getting back our clothes." 

" You wanted me to go because my shirt hadn't any 
holes in it." 

" But we both went together." 

" And, before we had made up our minds which should 
go first and call, up she starts. Lord, how she did laugh ! " 

" Ay, she did." 

" And says, ' Now, that's all my eye and Betty Martin, 
boys'; and so did we laugh, and I never felt a bit silly 
either. She was a good sort of girl, she was. Man and 
woman, I never met the likes of her, never heard tell 
of the equal of her," said the sailor musingly. 

" Married, Harry ? " 

" No, nor likely to be, I don't think. And yourself? " 

" Well, I was. ... I married Maggie. ... It was after 
the first baby . . ." 

A small boy in a corner could not get on with his 
novelette : he stared open-mouthed and open-eyed, now 
and then unconsciously imitating their faces; or he would 
correct this mere wonderment and become shy and 
uncomfortable at the frank ways of these men talking 

H 



98 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

aloud in a crowded carriage, and utterly regardless of 
others, about private matters. 

A trim shop assistant pretended to read about the 
cricket, but listened, and could not conceal his cold con- 
tempt for men so sunken as to give themselves away 
like this. 

A dark, thin, genial, pale-faced puritan clerk looked 
pitifully — with some twinkles of superiority that asked 
for recognition from his fellow-passengers — at these chil- 
dren, for as such he regarded them, and would not wholly 
condemn. 

Others occasionally jerked out a glance or rolled a 
leaderless eye or rustled a newspaper without losing the 
dense veil over their individuality that made them tombs, 
monuments, not men. 

One sat gentle, kindly, stupidly envying these two their 
spirited free talk, their gestures, the hearty draughts of life 
which they seemed to have taken. 

All were botanists who had heard and spoken words 
but had no sense of the beauty and life of the flower 
because fate had refused, or education destroyed, the gift 
of liberty and of joy. 



SURREY. 

Then I saw a huge silence of meadows, of woods, and 
beyond these, of hills that raised two breasts of empurpled 
turf into the sky; and, above the hills, one mountain of 
cloud that beamed as it reposed in the blue as in a sea. 
The white cloud buried London with a requiescat in pace. 

I like to think how easily Nature will absorb London 
as she absorbed the mastodon, setting her spiders to spin 



SURREY 99 

the winding-sheet and her worms to fill in the grave, -" "^^ ^ 
and her grass to cover it pitifully up, adding flowers — as 
an unknown hand added them to the grave of Nero. I 
like to see the preliminaries of this toil where Nature tries 
her hand at mossing the factory roof, rusting the deserted 
railway metals, sowing grass over the deserted platforms 
and flowers of rose-bay on ruinous hearths and walls. 
It is a real satisfaction to see the long narrowing wedge 
of irises that runs alongside and between the rails of the 
South-Eastern and Chatham Railway almost into the 
heart of London. And there are many kinds of weather 
when the air is full of voices prophesying desolation. The 
outer suburbs have almost a moorland fascination when 
fog lies thick and orange-coloured over their huge flat 
wastes of grass, expectant of the builder, but does not 
quite conceal the stark outlines of a traction engine, some 
procumbent timber, a bonfire and frantic figures darting 
about it, and aerial scaffolding far away. Other fields, yet 
unravished but menaced, the fog restores to a primeval 
state. And what a wild noise the wind makes in the 
telegraph wires as in wintry heather and gorse! When 
the waste open spaces give way to dense streets there is 
a common here and a lawn there, where the poplar leaves, 
if it be November, lie taintless on the grass, and the 
starlings talk sweet and shrill and cold in the branches, 
and nobody cares to deviate from the asphalte path to the 
dewy grass : the houses beyond the green mass themselves 
gigantic, remote, dim, and the pulse of London beats low 
and inaudible, as if she feared the irresistible enemy that 
is drawing its lines invisibly and silently about her on 
every side. If a breeze arises it makes that sound of the 
dry curled leaves chafing along the pavement; at night 

H 2 



100 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

they seem spies in the unguarded by-ways. But there 
are also days — and spring and summer days, too — when 
a quiet horror thicks and stills the air outside London. 

The ridges of trees high in the mist are very grim. 
The isolated trees stand cloaked in conspiracies here and 
there about the fields. The houses, even whole villages, 
are translated into terms of unreality as if they were 
carved in air and could not be touched; they are empty 
and mournful as skulls or churches. There is no life 
visible; for the ploughmen and the cattle are figures of 
light dream. All is soft and grey. The land has drunken 
the opiate mist and is passing slowly and unreluctantly 
into perpetual sleep. Trees and houses are drowsed 
beyond awakening or farewell. The mind also is infected, 
and gains a sort of ease from the thought that an eternal 
and universal rest is at hand without any cry or any pain. 



SUSSEX. 

The road skirts the marshland, the stream and the 
town, and goes through a gap in the Downs towards 
another range and more elms and farms at its feet. Stately 
walks the carter's boy with his perpendicular brass-bound 
whip, alongside four waggon-horses, while the carter rides. 
It is a pleasant thing to see them going to their work in 
the early gold of the morning, fresh, silent, their horses 
jingling, down the firm road. If they were leading their 
team to yoke them to the chariot of the sun they could 
not be more noble. They are the first men I have seen 
this morning, and truly they create for a little while the 
illusion that they are going to guide the world and that 
all will be well in the golden freshness under the blue. 






SUSSEX loi 

The road now divides to go round the base of the 
Downs, but a farm track sets out to ch'mb them. There, 
at the corner, is a church, on the very edge of the flat 
vale and its elms and ashes in the midst of meadows; a 
plain towered church, but with a rough churchyard, half 
graveyard and half orchard, its grass and parsley and nettle 
uncut under the knotty apple trees, splashed with silver 
and dull gold-green, dotted by silver buds among yellow- 
lichened branches that are matted densely as a magpie's 
nest. The dust from the high road powders the nettles 
and perfects the arresting melancholy of the desolation, 
so quiet, so austere, and withal as airy as a dream remem- 
bered. But above are the Downs, green and sweet with 
uplifting grass, and beyond them the sea, darkly gleaming 
under lustrous white cliffs and abrupt ledges of turf, in 
the south; in the south-east a procession of tufted trees 
going uphill in single file; in the south-west the dazzling 
slate roofs of a distant town, two straight sea walls and 
two steamers and their white wakes; northward the most 
beautiful minor range in all the downland, isolated by a 
river valley at the edge of which it ends in a gulf of 
white quarry, while on the other side it heaves and flows 
down almost to the plain, but rises again into a lesser hill 
with woods, and then slowly subsides. Within a few 
square miles it collects every beauty of the chalk hill; 
its central height is a dome of flawless grass only too 
tender to be majestic; and that is supported by lesser 
rounds and wavering lines of approach in concavity and 
convexity, playgrounds for the godlike shadows and lights, 
that prolong the descent of the spent wave of earth into 
the plain. 

An uncertain path keeps to the highest ridge. The 



102 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

sides of the Downs are invaded by long stream-like gorse- 
sided coombes, of which the narrow floor is palest green 
grass. The highest points command much of earth, all 
of heaven. They are treeless, but occasionally the turf 
is over-arched by the hoops of a brier thicket, the new 
foliage pierced by upright dead grey grass. They are the 
haunt of the swift, the home of wheatear and lark and 
of whatsoever in the mind survives or is born in this pure 
kingdom of grass and sky. Ahead, they dip to a river and 
rise again, their sweep notched by a white road. 

At the inland end of this river valley is an antique 
red-tiled large village or small town, a perfect group of 
human dwellings, as inevitable as the Downs, dominated 
by a mound and on it a windmill in ruin; mothered by a 
church at the river's edge. Under the sign of " Ye Olde 

" is a room newly wainscoted in shining matchboard. 

Its altar — its little red sideboard — is symmetrically decor- 
ated by tiers and rows of lemonade, cherry cider and 
ginger ale bottles, many-coloured, and in the midst of 
these two syphons of soda-water. The doorways and 
windows are draped in white muslin, the hearth filled by 
a crinkled blue paper fan; the mantelpiece supports a 
dozen small vases. The oilcloth is new and odorous 
and bright. There are pink geraniums in salmon-coloured 
bowls on the table; a canary in a suspended cage; and on 
the walls a picture of a girl teasing a dog with a toy 
mouse. 

At the cross-roads is a group of old slated white farm 
buildings and a tiled farmhouse of brick and flint; and 
above, at the top of a slope of down, is a grey spire and 
two orange roofs of cottages amidst a round cluster of 
trees; the sheep graze and their bells tittle-tattle. The 



SUSSEX 103 

seaward-going road alongside but above the river dips 
then under steep banks of blackthorn and parsley to a 
village of flint where another spire rises out of the old 
roofs of a farmhouse and its family of barns and lodges; 
a nightingale sings at hand, a wheeling pewit cries and 
gleams over the blue ripples of the river. Across the 
water a shallow scoop has been carved by Nature out 
of the side of the down; it is traversed by two diverging 
paths which alone are green, for the rest of the surface 
is of gorse and, full in the face of the sun, forms a mossy 
cirrus over the mist of its own warm shade. The down 
beside the road is now all cowslips among its scattered 
bramble and thorn, until it is cloven by a tributary bay, 
a quarter of a mile in length, marshy at first and half- 
filled by elms and willows, but at its higher end occupied, 
behind ash trees and an orchard, by a farmhouse, a circular 
domed building and a barn, all having roofs of ochre tile, 
except the thatched barn, and grey stained walls; a straight 
road goes to the house along the edge of the marsh and 
elms. Grey plover whistle singly on the wet borders of 
the stream or make a concerted whimper of two or three. 

A little beyond is a larger bay of the same kind, 
bordered by a long curving road entirely lined by elms 
dividing it from the broad meadow that has an elm 
rookery in a corner under the steep clean slope of down; 
at the end is a church singing to itself with all its bells 
in the solitude. And the hedges are full of strong young 
thrushes which there is no one to frighten — is there any 
prettier dress than the speckled feathers of their breasts 
and the cape of brown over their shoulders and backs, as 
they stir the dew in May? 

Then the valley opens wide and the river doubles in 



104 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

gleaming azure about a narrow spit of grass, in sight of 
a sharp white fall of chalk, into the lucid quiet sea. At 
this bend a company of sycamores girds and is one with 
a group of tiled and thatched and gabled buildings, of 
ochre, brown and rose. The road crosses the river and 
a path leads near the sea, between mustard flower, lucerne, 
beans, corn and grass, in flint-walled fields, to a church 
and farm of flint, overtopped by embowering chestnuts, 
ilex and the elms of rooks; and below there is another 
valley and river, a green pathless marsh, at whose edge five 
noisy belching chimneys stand out of a white pit. The 
path, over turf, rises to the Downs, passing a lonely flint 
barn with rich dark roof and a few sycamores for mates. 
This is the cornland, and the corn bunting sings solitary 
and monotonous, and the linnets twitter still in flocks. 
Above and around, the furzy coombes are the home of 
blackbirds that have a wilder song in this world of infinite 
corn below and grass above, and but one house. Violets 
and purple orchis (and its white buds) cloud the turf. 
On the other side the Downs sink to gently clustered 
and mounded woods and yet more corn surrounding a 
thatched flint barn, a granary and cart-lodge, and, again, 
a farm under sycamores. 

The soft-ribbed grey sky of after-sunset is slowly 
moving, kindly and promising rain. The air is still, the 
road dusty, but the hedges tender green, and the grass- 
hopper lark sings under the wild parsley of the roadside 
and the sedge-warbler in the sallows. 

Just beyond is the town by the beautiful domed hill, 
a town of steep lanes and wallflowers on old walls and 
such a date as 1577 modestly inscribed on a doorway; its 
long old street, sternly adapted to the needs of shopkeepers 



SUSSEX 105 

and gentry, looks only old-fashioned, its age being as 
much repressed as if it were a kind of sin or originality. 
This is that spirit which would quarrel with the stars for 
not being in straight lines like print, the spirit of one who, 
having been disturbed while shaving by the sight of a 
favourite cat in the midst of her lovers and behaving after 
the manner of iier kind, gives orders during the long 
mid-day meal that she shall be drowned forthwith, or — 
no — to-morrow, which is Monday. This is that spirit 
which says — 

Nature is never stiff, and none recognizes this fact 

better than Sc Son, and their now well-known and 

natural-looking rockeries have reclaimed many a dreary 

bit of landscape. At they showed me photographs 

of various country seats where the natural-looking scenery 
has been evolved by their artistic taste and ingenuity out 
of the most ordinary efforts of Nature. Thus a dull old 
mill-stream has, with the aid of rockeries and appropriate 
vegetation, been converted into a wonderfully pictur- 
esque spot, an ordinary brook was transformed into a 
lovely woodland scene, with ferns, mosses, and lichens 
growing among the rockeries, and the shores of an 
uninteresting lake became undulating banks of beauty by 

the same means; while the beautiful rockeries in 

Park were also the work of this firm. & Son have 

other ways, too, of beautifying gardens and grounds by 
the judicious use of balustrades, fountains, quaint figures, 

etc., made of " terra-cotta," or artificial stone, which 

is far more durable than real stone or marble, not so 
costly, and impervious to frost and all weathers, although 
it takes the vegetation in the same way, and after a year's 
exposure it can scarcely be distinguished from antique 
stone. In it the great specialite here just now is "sun- 
dials," the latest craze; for without a sundial no ancient 
or up-to-date garden is considered complete. 



io6 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

Nevertheless the town smells heartily of cattle, sheep, 
and malt; a rookery and white orchard confront the rail- 
way station, and in the midst of the streets the long grass 
is rough and wet and full of jonquils round ancient 
masonry : seen from a height the town shares the sunlight 
equally with massy foliage and finds its place as a part 
of Nature, and the peregrine takes it in its sweep. 

The turtle-doves have come and the oaks are budding 
bronze in the Weald. The steep roadside banks are 
cloaked in grass, violet, and primrose still, and robin-run- 
in-the-hedge and stitchwort and cuckoo flowers, and the 
white-throats talk in the hazel copses. A brooklet runs 
in a hollow that would almost hold the Thames, and 
crossing the road fills a rushy mill-pond deep below, and 
makes a field all golden and shining with marigold. Just 
beyond, a gnarled lime avenue leads to a grey many- 
windowed house of stone within a stately park. Opposite 
the gate an old woman sits on the grass, her feet in the 
dust at the edge of the road; motor-cars sprinkle her and 
turn her black to drab; she sits by the wayside eternally, 
expecting nothing. 

Turn out of this main road, and by-ways that tempt 
neither cyclists nor motorists go almost as straight. Here 
is no famous house, not a single inn or church, but only 
the unspoilt Weald, and far away, a long viaduct that 
carries noiseless trains against the sky above hollow 
meadows. Bluebell, primrose, anemone — anemone, prim- 
rose, bluebell — star and cloud the lush banks and the roots 
of the blackthorns, hazels and maples of the hedge. A 
stream washes the roots of many oaks, and flows past flat 
fields of dusky grass, cuckoo flower and marigold, — black 
pines at the verge. The light smoke of a roadside fire 



SUSSEX 107 

ascends into the new leaves of the hazels where two 
tramps are drying their clothes. Many oaks are down, 
and h*e pale and gleaming like mammoth bones among 
the bluebells in plantations roughened by old flint pits. 

The faggots of oak tops and cords of twisted timber 
are being made up; the woodmen light a fire and the chips 
fly from the axes. It is only to these men that I am a 
stranger as I walk through the land. At first I admire 
the hardihood and simplicity of their necessary toil among 
the oaks, but they lift their dark eyes, and then — it is as 
strange as when I pass a white embowered house, and the 
road is muffled with straw, and I hear by chance that 
some one unknown is dying behind that open window 
through which goes the thrush's song and the children's 
homeward chatter. Neither townsman or countryman, 
I cannot know them. The countryman knows their trades 
and their speech, and is of their kind; the townsman's 
curiosity wins him a greeting. But in May at least I am 
content, in the steep little valley made by a tributary of 
the Medway, its sides wooded with oak and the flowers 
glad of the sun among the lately cleared undergrowth, 
and the cuckoo now in this oak and now in that, and 
the turtle-doves whose voices, in the soft lulls after rain, 
make the earth seem to lie out sleek in the sun, stretching 
itself to purr with eyes closed. The cuckoo is gone 
before we know what his cry is to tell us or to remind 
us of. 

There are few things as pleasant as the thunder and 
lightning of May that comes in the late afternoon, when 
the air is as solid as the earth with stifiF grey rain for an 
hour. There is no motion anywhere save of this perpen- 
dicular river, of the swaying rain-hit bough and quiver- 



io8 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

ing leaf. But through it all the thrushes sing, and jolly- 
as their voices are the roars and echoes of the busy thunder 
quarrying the cliffs of heaven. And then the pleasure 
of being so wet that you may w^alk through streams and 
push through thickets and be none the wetter for it. 

Before it is full night the light of the young moon falls 
for a moment out of a troubled but silent sky upon the 
young corn, and the tranquil bells are calling over the 
woods. 

Then in the early morning the air is still and warm, 
but so moist that there is a soul of coolness in the heat, 
and never before were the leaves of the sorrel and wood 
sanicle and woodruff, and the grey-green foliage and pallid 
yellow flowers of the large celandine, so fair. The 
sudden wren's song is shrewd and sweet and banishes 
heaviness. The huge chestnut tree is flowering and full 
of bees. The parsley towers delicately in bloom. The 
beech boughs are encased in gliding crystal. The nettles, 
the millions of nettles in a bed, begin to smell of summer. 
In the calm and sweet air the turtle-doves murmur and 
the blackbirds sing — as if time were no more — over the 
mere. 

The roads, nearly dry again, are now at their best, 
cool and yet luminous, and at their edges coloured rosy or 
golden brown by the sheddings of the beeches, those 
gloves out of which the leaves have forced their way, 
pinched and crumpled by the confinement. At the bend 
of a broad road descending under beeches these parallel 
lines of ruddy chaff give to two or three days in the year 
a special and exquisite loveliness, if the weather be alter- 
nately wet and bright and the long white roads and virgin 
beeches are a temptation. What quests they propose! 



SUSSEX 109 

They take us away to the thin air of the future or to the 
underworld of the past. This one takes us to the old 
English sweetness and robustness of an estate of large 
meadows, sound oak trees not too close together, and a 
noble house within an oak-paled park. A poet and a 
man lives there, one who recalls those other poets — they 
are not many — who please us over the gulf of time almost 
as much by the personal vigour and courage which we 
know to have been theirs or is suggested by their work, 
men like Chaucer, Sidney, Ben Jonson, Drayton, Byron, 

William Morris, and among the living and 

and . I think we should miss their poems more 

than some greater men's if they were destroyed. They 
stand for their time more clearly than the greatest. For 
example, Chaucer's language, ideas and temper make it 
impossible for us to read his work, no matter in how 
remote a study or garden, shut out from time and change, 
without feeling that he and all those who rode and talked 
and were young with him are skeletons or less, though 
Catullus or Milton may be read with no such feeling. 
Chaucer seems to remind us of what once we were. His 
seems a golden age. He wrote before Villon had inaugur- 
ated modern literature with the cry — • 

Mais ou sont les neiges (Tantan P 

before men appear to us to have learned how immense 
is the world and time. But we, looking back, with the 
help of this knowledge, see in the work of this man who 
filled a little nook of time and space with gaiety, some- 
thing apart from us, an England, a happy island which his 
verses made. His gaiety bathes the land in the light of a 
golden age and the freshness of all the May days w^e can 
never recover. He " led a lusty life in May " : " in his 



no THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

lust present was all his thought." And the gaiety is no 
less in the sorrowful passages than in the joyful; when, for 
example, he compares the subjection of the fierce, proud 
Troilus to love, with the whipping of a spirited horse; 
when he uses the apparent commonplace about age creep- 
ing in "always as still as stone " upon fresh youth; when 
he exclaims to the false Jason — 

Have at thee, Jason ! now thy home is blowe ; 
or cries at the fate of Ugolino's children — 

Alias, Fortune ! it was greet crueltee 
Swiche briddes for to putte in swich a cage ! 

Even in Griselda's piteous cry — 

O tendre, O deere, O yonge children myne, 

there is an intimation that in those words her sorrow is 
being spent and that, though it will be renewed, it will be 
broken up by joyfulness many times before her death. 
For, as Chaucer's laughter is assuredly never completed 
by a sigh, so there is something hearty in his tears that 
hints of laughter before and after. His was a sharp 
surprising sorrow that came when he was forced to see 
the suffering of lovely humanity. He is all gaiety; but it 
has two moods. Sorrow never changes him more than 
shadow changes a merry brook. In both moods he seems 
to speak of a day when men had not only not so far 
outstripped the lark and nightingale as we have done, 
but had moments when their joy was equal to the lark's 
above the grey dew of May dawns. And thus, if we only 
had to thank Chaucer for the gaiety which is left behind 
in his poems, as the straw of a long-past harvest clings 
to the thorns of a narrow lane, we could never be 
thankful enough. 



SUSSEX III 

I feel that Chaucer was the equal of those of whom he 
wrote, as Homer was the equal of Achilles and Odysseus, 
just as Byron was the peer of the noblest of the Doges 
and of the ruined Emperor whom he addressed as — 

Vain fro ward child of Empire ! say 
Are all thy playthings snatched away ? 

Byron is one of the few poets whose life it was ever 
necessary to write. His acts were representative; from 
his Harrow meditations on a tomb to his death on the 
superb pedestal of Missolonghi, they are symbolic. His 
life explains nearly everything in his poetry. The life 
and the poetry together make an incomparable whole. 
Most lives of poets stand to their work as a block of 
unhewn marble stands to the statue finished and unveiled; 
if the marble is not as much forgotten as was Pygmalion's 
when Galatea breathed and sighed. Byron's poetry with- 
out his life is not finished; but with it, it is like a statue 
by Michael Angelo or Rodin that is actually seen to 
grow out of the material. He was a man before he was 
a poet. Other poets may once have been men; they are 
not so now. We read their lives after their poetry and 
we forget them. It is by their poetry that they survive 
— blithe or pathetic or glorious, but dim, ghosts who are 
become a part of the silence of libraries and lovers' hearts. 
They are dead but for the mind that enjoys and the voice 
that utters their verse. I had not the smallest curiosity 
about Mr. Swinburne when he was alive and visible. 
When I think of him, I think of Rosamund speaking to 
Eleanor or Tristram to Isoud; he has given up his life 
to them. But with Byron it is different. If all record of 
him could be destroyed, more than half of him would be 
lost. For I think that it is upon the life and the portraits 



112 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

and the echoes that are still reverberating in Europe, that 
we found our belief that he is a great man. Without them 
he would be an interesting rhetorician, perhaps little more. 
There are finer poems than his " Mazeppa," but the poet 
is the equal of that wild lover and of the great King who 
slept while the tale was told. 

And Shelley, too, is an immortal sentiment. Men may- 
forget to repeat his verses; they can never be as if Shelley 
had never been. He is present wherever love and rapture 
are. He is a part of all high-spirited and pure audacity of 
the intellect and imagination, of all clean-handed rebel- 
lion, of all infinite endeavour and hope. The remembered 
splendour of his face is more to us than Parliaments; one 
strophe of his odes is more nourishing than a rich man's 
gold. . . . 

Under those oaks in May I could wish to see these 
men walking together, to see their gestures and brave 
ways. It is the poet there who all but creates them for 
me. But only one can I fairly see because I have seen 
him alive and speaking. Others have sent up their 
branches higher among the stars and plunged their roots 
deeper among the rocks and waters. But he and Chaucer 
and Jonson and Byron have obviously much plain 
humanity in their composition. They have a brawn and 
friendliness not necessarily connected with poetry. We 
use no ceremony — as we do with some other poets — with 
Morris when we read — 

The days have slain the days, and the seasons liave gone by, 
And brought me the summer again ; and here on the grass I lie, 
As erst I lay and was glad ere I meddled with right and with 
wrong. 

Or the end of " Thunder in the Garden " — 



SUSSEX 113 

Then we turned from the blossoms, and cold were they grown : 

In the trees the wind westering moved ; 

Till over the threshold back fluttered her gown, 

And in the dark house was I loved. 

There is a humanity of this world and moment in 
Morris's feeling for Nature with which no other poet's 
except Whitman's can be compared. Except in the great- 
est — the unaccomplished things — in " Leaves of Grass " 
there is no earth-feeling in the literature of our language 
so majestic and yet so tender as in " The Message of the 
March Wind." With him poetry was not, as it has tended 
more and more to be in recent times, a matter as exclusive 
as a caste. Pie was not half-angel or half-bird, but a 
man on close terms with life and toil, with the actual, 
troublous life of every day, with toil of the hands and 
brain together; in short, a many-sided citizen. He was 
one whom Skarphedin the son of Njal of Bergthorsknoli 
would not have disdained, and when he spoke he seemed 
indignant at the feebleness of words, one that should have 
used a sword and might have lamented with the still later 
poet — 

The Spirit stands and looks on infamy, 
And unashamed the faces of the pit 

Snarl at their enemy ; 
Finding him wield no insupportable light, 
And no whirled edge of blaze to hit 
Backward their impudence, and hammer them to flight ; 

Although ready is he. 
Wearing the same righteous steel 
Upon his limbs, helmed as he was then 

When he made olden war ; 
Yet cannot now with foulness fiercely deal. 
There is no indignation among men. 

The Spirit has no scimitar 



114 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

Wilt thou not come again, thou godly sword, 

Into the Spirit's hands ? 
That he may be a captain of the Lord 

Again, and mow out of our lands 
The crop of wicked men . . . 
O for that anger in the hands 
Of Spirit ! To us, O righteous sword. 

Come thou and clear our lands, 
O fire, O indignation of the Lord ! ^ 

Bitter ft is to think of that talk and laughter of shadows 
on the long lawns under those oaks; for though their 
shadows are even yet better than other men's bone or 
blood, never yet did dead man lift up a hand to strike a 
blow or lay a brick. In a churchyard behind I saw the 
tombstone of one Robert Page, born in the year 1792 
here in Sussex, and dead in 1822 — not in the Bay of 
Spezzia but in Sussex. He scared the crows, ploughed 
the clay, fought at Waterloo and lost an arm there, was 
well pleased with George the Fourth, and hoed the corn 
until he was dead. That is plain sense, and I wish I 
could write the life of this exact contemporary of Shelley. 
That is quite probably his great granddaughter, black- 
haired, of ruddy complexion, full lips, large white teeth, 
black speechless eyes, dressed in a white print dress and 
stooping in the fresh wind to take clean white linen 
out of a basket, and then rising straight as a hazel wand, 
on tiptoe, her head held back and slightly oh one side 
while she pegs the clothes to the line and praises the 
weather to a passer-by. She is seventeen, and of such is 
the kingdom of earth. 

Now at the coming on of night the wind has carried 
away all the noises of the world. The lucid air under the 

^ From Poems and Interludes, by Lascelles Aberciombie. 



SUSSEX 115 

hazels of the lane is dark as if with dream, and the road- 
way leads glimmering straight on to a crystal planet low 
in the purple of the west. I cannot hear my footsteps, 
so full charged is the silence. I am no more in this 
tranquillity than one of the trees. The way seems paved 
that some fair spirit may pass down in perfect beauty 
and bliss and ease. The leaves will hail it and the blue 
sky lean down to bless, and the planet lend its beams for 
a path. Suddenly, the name of Mary is called by some 
one invisible. Mary! For a little while the cry is 
repeated more loudly but always sweetly; then the caller 
is entranced by the name, by the sound of her own voice 
and the silence into which it falls as into a well, and it 
grows less and less and ceases and is dead except in the 
brain of the hearer. I thought of all the music to ear 
and mind of that sound of " m." I suppose the depth 
of its appeal is due to its place at the beginning of the 
word " mother," or rather to the need of the soul which 
gave it that place; and it is a sound as dear to the animals 
as to us, since the ewe hears it first from her lamb and 
the cow from her calf as the woman from her child. It 
is the main sound in " music," " melody," " harmony," 
"measure," " metre," " rhythm," " minstrel," "madrigal." 
It endears even sadness by its presence in " melancholy," 
" moan " and " mourn." It makes melody on the lips of 
friends and lovers, in the names of " mistress," " com- 
rade," " mate," " companion." It murmurs autumnally 
in all mellow sounds, in the music of wind and insect and 
instrument. To " me " and " mine " it owes a meaning as 
deep as to " mother." And this mild air could bear no more 
melodious burden than the name that floated upon it and 
sank into it,down,down,to reveal its infinite depth — Mary ! 



ii6 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

There are parks on both sides of the road, bounded by 
hedges or high brick walls, and the public road has all 
the decorum of a drive. For a mile the very ivy which is 
destined to adorn the goodly wall and spread into forms 
as grand as those at Godstow Nunnery is protected by 
wire netting. Doves croon in the oaks : underneath, 
hazel and birch flicker their new leaves over the pools of 
bluebells. The swallows fly low over every tuft of the 
roadside grass and glance into every bay of the wood, and 
then out above the white road, from which they rebound 
suddenly and turn, displaying the white rays of their 
tails. Now and then a gateway reveals the park. The 
ground undulates, but is ever smooth. It is of the mellow 
gieen of late afternoon. Bronzed oak woods bound the 
undulations, and here and there a solitary tree stands out 
on the grass and shows its poise and complexity with the 
added grace of new leaf. The cattle graze as on a painted 
lav/n. A woman in a white dress goes indolent and 
stately towards the rhododendrons and rook-haunted elms. 
The scene appears to have its own sun, mellow and serene, 
that knows not moorland or craggy coast or city. Only 
a thousand years of settled continuous government, of 
far-reaching laws, of armies and police, of roadmaking, 
of bloody tyranny and tyranny that poisons quietly with- 
out blows, could have wrought earth and sky into such a 
harmony. It is a thing as remote from me here on the 
dusty road as is the green evening sky and all its tran- 
quillity of rose and white, and even more so because the 
man in the manor house behind the oaks is a puzzle to 
me, while the sky is always a mystery with which I am 
content. At such an hour the house and lawns and trees 
are more wonderfully fortified by the centuries of time 



SURREY 117 

than by the walls and gamekeepers. They weave an 
atmosphere about it. We bow the head and reverence 
the labour of time in smoothing the grass, mellowing the 
stone and the manners of the inhabitants, and yet an 
inevitable conflict ensues in the mind between this respect 
and the feeling that it is only a respect for surfaces, that a 
thousand years is a heavy price to pay for the maturing 
of park and liouse and gentleman, especially as he is most 
likely to be a well-meaning parasite on those who are 
concerned twenty-four hours a day about the diflRculty 
of living and about what to do when they are alive. 

No, it is the alien remote appearance of the house and 
land serene in the May evening light which creates this 
reverence in the mind. It is not feudalism, or the old 
nobility and gentility, that we are bowing down to, but 
only to Nature without us and the dream within us. It 
is certainly not pure envy. Nor yet is it for the same 
reason as made Borrow reflect when he saw the good 
house at the end of an avenue of noble oaks near 
Llandovery — 

"... A plain but comfortable gentleman's seat with 
wings. It looked south down the dale. * With what 
satisfaction I could live in that house,' said I to myself, * if 
backed by a couple of thousand a year. With what 
gravity could I sign a warrant in its library, and with 
what dreamy comfort translate an ode of Lewis Glyn 
Cothi, my tankard of rich ale beside me. I wonder 
whether the proprietor is fond of the old bard and keeps 
good ale. Were I an Irishman instead of a Norfolk man 
I would go in and ask him.' " 

Not if he were a Welshman, either. For I at least 
know that in no other man's house should I be better off 



ii8 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

than I am, and I lack the confidence to think I could 
make any use of his income. I would as soon envy a 
tramp because he has no possessions, or a navvy because 
he w^alks like a hero as he pushes a heavy trolley before 
him, his loose jacket fitting him as a mane fits a lion. 
To envy a man is to misunderstand him or yourself. 

Nor yet is it pure admiration. That is what I feel 
for something external that can be described as right, as 
having absolute individuality and inevitableness of form. 
For example, I admire certain groups that are the result 
of what we call chance — an arrangement of fishing boats 
going out to sea, first one, then at a long interval two 
close together, a fourth a little behind, and then by ones 
and pairs and clusters at different intervals; or the four or 
five oaks left in a meadow that was once a copse; or the 
fruit fallen on autumn rime; or sunset clouds that pause 
darkly along the north-west in a way that will never be 
seen again; or of tragic figures at such a moment as when 
Polyxena, among the Grecian youths, gave her throat to 
the dagger of Neoptolemus, and fell beautiful in death. 

No. Those houses are castles in Spain. They are 
fantastic architecture. We have made them out of our 
spirit stuff and have set our souls to roam their corridors 
and look out of their casements upon the sea or the moun- 
tains or the clouds. It is because they are accessible only 
to the everywhere wandering irresistible and immortal part 
of us that they are beautiful. There is no need for them 
to be large or costly or antique. The poorest house can 
do us a like service. In a town, for example, and in a 
suburb, I have had the same yearning when, on a fine 
still morning of May or June, in streets away from the 
traffic, I have seen through the open windows a cool 



SURREY 119 

white-curtafned shadowy room, and in ft a table with 
white cloths and gleaming metal and glass laid thereon, 
and nobody has yet come down to open the letters. It all 
seems to be the work of spirit hands. It is beautiful and 
calm and celestial, and is a profound pleasure — tinged by 
melancholy — to see. It gives a sense of fitness — for what ? 
For something undivined, imperfectly known, guessed at, 
or hoped for, in ourselves; for a wider and less tainted 
beauty, for a greater grace. Or it may not be a house at 
all, but a hill-top five miles off, up which winds a white 
road in two long loops between a wood and the turf. 
The grass is smooth and warm and bright at the summit 
in the blue noon; or in the horizontal sunbeams each stem 
is lit so that the hill is transmuted into a glowing and 
insubstantial thing; and then, at noon or evening, some- 
thing in me flies at the sight and desires to tread that holy 
ground. It is an odd world where everything is fleeting 
yet the soul desires permanence even for fancies so 
unprofitable as this. 

And so these thoughts at the sight of the great houses 
mingle with the thoughts that grow at twilight and fade 
gradually away in the windless night when the sky is soft- 
ridged all over with white clouds and in the dark vales 
between them are the stars. Then, for it is Saturday, 
follows another pleasure of the umbrageous white country 
roads at night — the high contented voices of children 
talking to father and mother as they go home from the 
market town. The parents move dark-clothed, silent, 
laden; the children flit about them with white hats or 
pinafores. Their voices travel far and long after they 
are invisible in the mist that washes over the fields in long 
white iirths, but die away as the misty night blots out 



120 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

the hills, the clouds, the stars, the trees, and everything 
but the branches overhead and the white parsley flowers 
floating along the hedge. There is no breath of wind. 
The owls are quiet. The air is full of the scent of holly 
flower and may and nettles and of the sound of a little 
stream among the leaves. 



CHAPTER VIII 

JUNE HAMPSHIRE THE GOLDEN AGE TRAHERNE 

HAMPSHIRE. 

Now day by day, indoors and out of doors, the con- 
quest of spring proceeds to the music of the conquerors. 
One evening the first chafer comes to the lamp, and his 
booming makes the ears tremble with dim apprehension. 
He climbs, six-legged and slow, up the curtain, support- 
ing himself now and then by unfurling his wings, or if 
not he falls with a drunken moan, then begins to climb 
again, and at last blunders about the room like a ball that 
must strike something, the white ceiling, the white paper, 
the lamp, and when he falls he rests. In his painful 
climbing he looks human, as perhaps a man looks angelic 
to an angel; but there is nothing lovelier and more sur- 
prising than the unfurling of his pinions like a magic 
wind-blown cloak out of that hard mail. 

Another day the far-off woods in a hot, moist air first 
attain their rich velvet mossiness, and even near at hand 
the gorse-bushes all smouldering with bloom are like 
clouds settled on the earth, having no solidity, but just 
colour and warmth and pleasantness. 

The broad-backed chestnuts bloom. On the old cart- 
lodge tiles the vast carapace of the house-leek is green 
and rosy, and out of the midst of it grow dandelions and 
grass, and the mass of black mould which it has accumu- 
lated in a century bends down the roof. 

The hawthorn-bloom is past before we are sure that it 

121 



122 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

has reached its fulness. Day after day its warm and 
fragrant snow clouded the earth with light, and yet we 
waited, thinking surely to-morrow it will be fairer still, 
and it was, and the next day we thought the same and 
we were careless as in first love, and then one day it lay 
upon the grass, an empty shell, the vest of departed loveli- 
ness, and another year was over. The broad grass is full 
of buttercups' gold or it is sullen silvery under a burning 
afternoon sun, without wind, the horizon smoky, the blue 
sky and its white, still clouds almost veiled by heat; the 
red cattle are under the elms; the unrippled water slides 
under sullen silvery willows. 

The night-haze peels off the hills and lets the sun in 
upon small tracts of wood — upon a group of walnuts in 
the bronze of their fine, small leaf — upon downland grass, 
and exposes blue sky and white cloud, but then returns 
and hides the land, except that the dewy ground-ash and 
the ivy and holly gleam; and two cuckoos go over crying 
and crying continually in the hollow vale. 

Already the ash-keys hang in cool, thick bunches under 
the darker leaves. The chestnut-bloom is falling. The 
oak-apples are large and rosy. The wind is high, and the 
thunder is away somewhere behind the pink mountains 
in the southern sky or in the dark drifts overhead. And 
yet the blue of the massy hangers almost envelops the 
beechen green; the coombes and the beeches above and 
around their grassy slopes of juniper are soft and dim, 
and far withdrawn, and the nightjar's voice is heard as if 
the wind there were quiet. The rain will not come; the 
plunging wind in the trees has a sound of waterfalls all 
night, yet cannot trouble the sleep of the orange-tip 
butterfly on the leopard's-bane's dead flower. 



JUNE 123 

Now the pine blooms in the sandy lands, above the 
dark-fronded brake and glaucous- fruited whortleberry, the 
foxgloves break into bell after bell under the oaks and 
birches. The yellow broom is flowering and scented, and 
the white lady's bedstraw sweetens the earth's breath. 
The careless variety of abundance and freshness makes 
every lane a bride. Suddenly, in the midst of the sand, 
deep meadows gleam, and the kingfisher paints the air 
with azure and emerald and rose above the massy water 
tumbling between aspens at the edge of a neat, shaven 
lawn, and, behind that, a white mill and miller's house 
with dark, alluring windows where no one stirs. 

June puts bronze and crimson on many of her leaves. 
The maple-leaves and many of the leaves of thorn and 
bramble and dogwood are rosy; the hazel-leaves are rosy- 
brown; the herb-robert and parsley are rose-red; the 
leaves of ash and holly are dark lacquered. The copper 
beeches, opulently sombre under a faintly yellowed sky, 
seem to be the sacred trees of the thunder that broods 
above. Presently the colour of the threat is changed to 
blue, which soiled white clouds pervade until the whole 
sky is woolly white and grey and moving north. There 
is no wind, but there is a roar as of a hurricane in the 
trees far off; soon it is louder, in the trees not so remote; 
and in a minute the rain has traversed half-a-mile of 
woods, and the distant combined roar is swallowed up by 
the nearer pattering on roof and pane and leaf, the dance 
of leaves, the sway of branches, the trembling of whole 
trees under the flood. The rain falls straight upon the 
hard road, and each drop seems to leap upward from it 
barbed. Great drops dive among the motionless, dusty 
nettles. The thunder unloads its ponderous burden upon 



124 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

the resonant floor of the sky; but the sounds of the 
myriad leaves and grass-blades drinking all but drowns 
the boom, the splitting roar, and the echo in the hills. 
When it is over it has put a final sweetness into the 
blackbird's voice and into the calm of the evening garden 
when the voice of a singer does but lay another tribute 
at the feet of the enormous silence. Frail is that voice 
as the ghost-moth dancing above the grass so faithfully 
that it seems a flower attached to a swaying stem, or as 
the one nettle-leaf that flutters in a draught of the hedge 
like a signalling hand while all the rest of the leaves are as 
if they could not move again, or as the full moon that is 
foundering on a white surf in the infinite violet sky. 
More large and more calm and emptier of familiar things 
grows the land as I pass through it, under the hoverings 
of the low-flying but swiftly-turning nightjar, until at 
midnight only a low white mist moves over the gentle 
desolation and warm silence. The mist wavers, and 
discloses a sky all strewn with white stars like the flowers 
of an immense jessamine. It closes up again, and day is 
born unawares in its pale arms, and earth is for the 
moment nothing but the tide of downs flowing west and 
the branch of red roses that hangs heavily laden and 
drowsed with its weight and beauty over my path, dipping 
Its last spray in the dew of the grass. 

The day is a Sunday, and no one is on foot or on wheel 
in the broad arable country that ripples in squares of 
green, or brown, or yellow, or grey, to the green Downs 
and their dark, high-perched woods. As if for some 
invisible beholder, the green elders and their yellow-green 
flower-buds make their harmony with the yellow-lichened 
barns against which they lean; the grass and the noble 



JUNE 125 

trees, the groups of wayside aspen, the line of horse- 
chestnuts, the wych-elms on both sides of the road, the 
one delicate sycamore before the inn and the company of 
sycamores above the cross — the spacious thatch and tiles 
of the farmyard quadrangle — the day newly painted in 
white and blue — the green so green in the hedges, and 
the white and purple so pure in the flowers — all seem to 
be meant for eyes that know nothing of Time and of 
what "brought death into the world and all our woe." 
And in this solitude the young birds are very happy. 
They have taken possession of the thick hedges, of the 
roadside grass, of the roads themselves. They flutter and 
run and stumble there; they splash in the pools and in 
the dust, which not a wheel nor a foot has marked. 
These at least are admitted into the kingdom along with 
that strange wildfowl that lives " to maintain the trade 
and mystery of typographers." 

Such a day, in the unblemished summer land, invariably 
calls up thoughts of the Golden Age. As mankind has 
looked back to a golden age, so the individual, repeating 
the history of the race, looks back and finds one in his 
own past. Historians and archaeologists have indeed made 
it difficult for men of our time to look far back for a 
golden age. We are shown a skull with supraciliary 
prominences and are told that its owner, though able to 
survive the mammoth by means of tools of flint, lived like 
the Tasmanian of modern times; and his was no Golden 
Age. Then we look back to heroic ages which poetry 
and other arts have magnified — to the Greece of Homer 
or Pheidias, to the Ireland of Cuchulain, to the Wales of 
Arthur, to the England which built the great cathedrals 
or produced Chaucer, Sir Philip Sidney, Izaak Walton. 



126 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

In the same way, few men can now look back to their 
childhood like Traherne and say that 

" All appeared new and strange at first, inexpressibly 
rare and delightful and beautiful. I was a little stranger 
which at my entrance into the world was saluted and 
surrounded with innumerable joys. My knowledge was 
Divine. I knew by intuition those things which since 
my Apostasy I collected again by the highest reason. My 
very ignorance was advantageous. I seemed as one 
brought into the Estate of Innocence. All things were 
spotless and pure and glorious; yea, and infinitely mine, 
and joyful and precious. I knew not that there were any 
sins or complaints or laws. I dreamed not of poverties, 
contentions or vices. All tears and quarrels were hidden 
from mine eyes. Everything was at rest, free and im- 
mortal. I knew nothing of sickness or death or rents or 
exaction, either for tribute or bread. . . . All Time was 
Eternity, and a perpetual Sabbath. Is it not strange, that 
an infant should be heir of the whole world and see 
those mysteries which the books of the learned never 
unfold? "1 

We blink, deliberately or not, unpleasant facts in our 
own lives, as in the social life of Greece or the Middle 
Ages. Some have no need to do so; robustly or sensitively 
made, their childish surroundings have been such as to 
meet their utmost needs or to draw out their finest powers 
or to leave them free. Ambition, introspection, remorse 
had not begun. The vastness and splendour and gloom 
of a world not understood, but seen in its effects and 
hardly at all in its processes, made a theatre for their 
happiness which — especially when seen through a mist of 
years — glorify it exceedingly, and it becomes like a ridge 
of the far-off downs transfigured in golden light, so that 

1 Centuries of Meditation, by Thomas Traherne (Dobell). 



JUNE 127 

we in the valley sigh at the thought that where we have 
often trod is heaven now. Such beauties of the earth, 
seen at a distance and inaccessibly serene, always recall 
the equally inaccessible happiness of childhood. Why 
have we such a melting mood for what we cannot reach ? 
Why, as we are whirled past them in a train, does the 
sight of a man and child walking quietly beside a reedy 
pond, the child stooping for a flower and its gossip 
unheard— why should we tremble to reflect that we have 
never tasted just that cloistered balm ? 

Perhaps the happiest childhoods are those which pass 
completely away and leave whole tracts of years without 
a memory; those which are remembered are fullest of 
keen joy as of keen pain, and it is such that we desire for 
ourselves if we are capable of conceiving such fantastic 
desires. I confess to remembering little joy, but to much 
drowsy pleasure in the mere act of memory. I watch the 
past as I have seen workless, homeless men leaning over 
a bridge to watch the labours of a titanic crane and 
strange workers below in the ship running to and fro and 
feeding the crane. I recall green fields, one or two 
whom I loved in them, and though no trace of such 
happiness as I had remains, the incorruptible tranquillity 
of it all breeds fancies of great happiness. I recall many 
scenes : a church and churchyard and black pigs running 
down from them towards me in a rocky lane — ladslove 
and tall, crimson, bitter dahlias in a garden — the sweetness 
of large, moist yellow apples eaten out of doors — children : 
I do not recall happiness in them, yet the moment that I 
return to them in fancy I am happy. Something like this 
is true also of much later self-conscious years. I cannot 
— I am not tempted to — allow what then spoiled the 



128 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

^ mingling of the elements of joy to reappear when I look 
back. The reason, perhaps, is that only an inmost true 
self that desires and is in harmony with joy can perform 
these long journeys, and when it has set out upon them 
it sheds those gross incrustations wliich were our curse 
before. 

Many are the scenes thus to be recalled without spot or 
stain. It is a May morning, warm and slightly breezy 
after midnight rain. In the beech-woods the trees are 
unloading the dew, which drops from leaf to leaf and 
down on to the lemon-tinged leaves of dark dog's-mer- 
cury. At the edge of the wood the privet branches are 
bent down by the weight of raindrops of the size of peas. 
The dewy white stitchwort stars and the feathered grasses 
are curved over on the banks. The sainfoin is hoary and 
sparkling as I move. Already the sun is hot and the sky 
blue, with faint white clouds in whirls. And in the 
orchard-trees and drenched luxuriant hedges the garden- 
warblef sings a subdued note of rushing, bubbling liquidity 
as of some tiny brook that runs in quick pulsations among 
the fleshy-leaved water-plants. The bird's head is up- 
lifted; its throat is throbbing; it moves restlessly from 
branch to branch, but always renews its song on the new 
perch; being leaf-like, it is not easily seen. And some- 
times through this continuous jargon the small, wild song 
of the blackcap is heard, which is the utmost expression 
of moist warm dawns in May thickets of hawthorn- 
bloom and earliest roses. On such a dawn the very spirit 
bathes in the dew and nuzzles into the fragrance with 
delight; but it is no sooner left behind with May than it 
has developed within me into an hour and a scene of 
utmost grace and bliss, save that I am in it myself. 



JUNE 129 

It is curious, too, how many different kinds of Eden 
or Golden Age Nature has in her gift, as if she silently 
recorded the backward dreams of each generation and 
reproduced them for us unexpectedly. It is, for instance, 
an early morning in July. The cows pour out from the 
milking-stalls and blot out the smell of dust with their 
breath in the white road between banks of hazel and 
thorn. The boy who is driving them to the morning's 
pasture calls to them monotonously, persuasively, in turn, 
as each is tempted to crop the roadside sward : " Wo, 
Cherry! Now, Dolly! Wo, Fancy! Strawberry! . . . 
Blanche! . . . Blossom! . . . Cowslip! . . . Rosy! 
Smut! . . . Come along. Handsome! . . . Wo, Snow- 
drop! . . . Lily! . . . Darky! . . . Roany! . . . Come 
along, Annie! " Here the road is pillowed with white 
aspen-down, there more fragrant than pines with the 
brown sheddings of yew, and here thick with the dry 
scent of nettle and cow-parsnip, or glorious in perfect 
mingling of harebell and foxglove among the bracken 
and popping gorse on the roadside. The cows turn into 
the aftermath of the sainfoin, and the long valley echoes 
to their lowing. After them, up the road, comes a gypsy- 
cart, and the boy hangs on the gate to see the men and 
women walking, black-haired, upright, bright-eyed, and 
on the name-board of the cart the words : " Naomi Sher- 
wood, Burley, Hampshire." These things also propose 
to the roving, unhistoric mind an Eden, one still with us, 
one that is passing, not, let us hope, the very last. 

Some of these scenes, whether often repeated or not, 

come to have a rich symbolical significance; they return 

persistently and, as it were, ceremoniously — on festal days 

— but meaning I know not what. For example, I 

K 



i30 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

never see the flowers and scarlet-stained foliage of herb- 
robert growing out of old stone-heaps by the wayside 
without a feeling of satisfaction not explained by a long 
memory of the contrast between the plant and the raw 
flint; so also with the drenched lilac-bloom leaning out 
over high walls of unknown gardens; and inland cliffs, 
covered with beech, jutting out westward into a bottom- 
less valley in the mist of winter twilights, in silence and 
frost. Something in me belongs to these things, but I 
hardly think that the mere naming of them will mean 
anything except to those — many, perhaps — who have 
experienced the same. A great writer so uses the words 
of every day that they become a code of his own which 
the world is bound to learn and in the end take unto 
itself. But words are no longer symbols, and to say 
" hill " or " beech " is not to call up images of a hill or 
a beech-tree, since we have so long been in the habit of 
using the words for beautiful and mighty and noble things 
very much as a book-keeper uses figures without seeing 
gold and power. I can, therefore, only try to suggest 
what I mean by the significance of the plant in the stone- 
heap, the wet lilac, the misty cliff, by comparing it with 
that of scenes in books where we recognize some power 
beyond the particular and personal. All of Don Quixote's 
acts have this significance; so have the end of Mr. Con- 
rad's story of Youth and the opening of Mr. Hudson's 
El Ombu — the old man sitting on a summer's day under 
the solitary tree to tell the history "of a house that had 
been." Malory's Morte d'* Arthur is full of scenes like this. 
For ten centuries, from the battle of Badon to the writ- 
ing of Morte d* Arthur^ these stories were alive on the lips 
of many kinds of men and women in many lands, from 



JUNE 131 

Connemara to Calabria. Many of these men and women 
survive only in the turns which their passionate hearts 
gave to these ghostly, everlastingly wandering tales. 
Artists have worked upon them. Bards have sung them, 
and the sound of their harping is entangled in the words 
that have reached us to-day. This blending of many 
bloods is suggested by the Saracen in the Morte d* Arthur 
who was descended from Hector and Alexander and 
Joshua and Maccabaeus; by Taliesin, whose " original 
country is the region of the summer stars," who was 
with Noah and Alexander and at the birth of Christ. 
And thus has the tale become so full in the ear of 
humanity, so rich in scenes designed to serve only an 
immediate purpose, yet destined by this grace to move all 
kinds of men in manifold ways. Such is the chess-playing 
m The Dream of Rhonahwy; the madness of Tristram 
when he ran naked in the wood many days, but was lured 
by the music of a damsel playing on his own harp; the 
speech of Arthur at the scattering of his knights in the 
Sangraal quest; Launcelot's fighting with the black 
knights against the white; Launcelot's adventures ending 
at the castle of Carbonek, where he put on all his arms 
and armour and went — " and the moon shone clear " — 
between the lions at the gate and forced open the door, 
and saw the " Holy Vessel, covered with red samite, and 
many angels about it"; and Arthur and Guenevere watch- 
ing the dead Elaine in the barge; and in the wars of 
Arthur and Launcelot, the scene opening with the words : 
" Then it befell upon a day \x\ harvest-time, Sir Launcelot 
looked over the walls, and spake on high unto King 
Arthur and Sir Gawaine. . . ." 

No English writer has expressed as well as Trakerne 
K 2 



6 a 1(0. 



132 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

the spiritual glory of childhood, in which Wordsworth 
saw intimations of immortality. He speaks of " that 
divine light wherewith I was born " and of his " pure 
and virgin apprehensions," and recommends his friend to 
pray earnestly for these gifts: "They will make you 
angelical, and wholly celestial." It was by the "divine 
knowledge " that he saw all things in the peace of 
Eden — 

" The corn was orient and immortal wheat, which 
never should be reaped, nor was ever sown. I thought it 
had stood from everlasting to everlasting. The dust and 
stones of the street were as precious as gold; the gates 
were at first the end of the world. The green trees when 
I saw them first through one of the gates transported and 
ravished me; their sweetness and unusual beauty made 
my heart to leap and almost mad with ecstasy; they were 
such strange and wonderful things. The Men ! O what 
venerable and reverend creatures did the aged seem! 
Immortal Cherubims! And young men glittering and 
sparkling angels, and maids strange seraphic pieces of life 
and beauty! Boys and girls tumbling in the street, and 
playing, were moving jewels. I knew not that they 
were born or should die; but all things abided eternally 
as they were in their proper places. Eternity was mani- 
fest in the light of the day, and something infinite behind 
everything appeared, which tallied with my expectation 
and moved my desire. . . ." 

Yet was this light eclipsed. He was " with much ado " 
perverted by the world, by the temptation of men and 
worldly things and by "opinion and custom," not any 
" inward corruption or depravation of Nature." 

For he tells us how he once entered a noble dining- 



JUNE 133 

room and was there alone " to see the gold and state and 
carved imagery," but wearied of it because it was dead, 
and had no motion. A little afterwards he saw it " full 
of lords and ladies and music and dancing," and now 
pleasure took the place of tediousness, and he perceived, 
long after, that " men and women are, when well under- 
stood, a principal part of our true felicity." Once again, 
" in a lowering and sad evening, being alone in the field, 
when all things were dead quiet," he had the same weari- 
ness, nay, even horror. " I was a weak and little child, 
and had forgotten there was a man alive in the earth." 
Nevertheless, hope and expectation came to him and com- 
forted him, and taught him " that he was concerned in all 
the world." That he was " concerned in all the world " 
was the great source of comfort and joy which he found 
in life, and of that joy which his book pours out for us. 
Not only did he see that he was concerned in all the 
world, but that river and corn and herb and sand were so 
concerned. God, he says, " knoweth infinite excellen- 
cies " in each of these things; "He seeth how it relateth 
to angels and men." In this he anticipated Blake's 
Auguries of Innocence. He seems to see the patterns 
which all living things are for ever weaving. He would 
have men strive after this divine knowledge of things and 
of their place in the universe. 

He came to believe that " all other creatures were such 
that God was Himself in their creation, that is, Almighty 
Power wholly exerted; and that every creature is indeed 
as it seemed in my infancy, not as it is commonly 
apprehended." 

Yet he feels the superiority of man's soul to the things 
which it apprehends : " One soul in the immensity of its 



134 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

/ intelligence is greater and more excellent than the whole 
world." Even so Richard Jefferies prayed that his soul 
" might be more than the cosmos of life." The soul is 
greater than the whole world because it is capable of 
apprehending the whole world, because it is spiritual, 
and the spiritual nature is infinite. Thus Traherne was 
led to the splendid error of making the sun " a poor little 
dead thing." Or perhaps it was a figure of speech used 
to convince the multitude of his estimation of man's soul 
as above all visible things. In the same spirit he speaks 
of " this little Cottage of Heaven and Earth as too small 
a gift, though fair," for beings of whom he says : " Infinity 
we know and feel by our souls; and feel it so naturally, 
as if it were the very essence and being of the soul "; and 
again, with childlike simplicity and majesty — 

" Man is a creature of such noble principles and severe 
expectations, that could he perceive the least defect to be 
in the Deity, it would infinitely displease him." 

He could not well have thought of man except loftily, 
since he was himself one whom imagination never de- 
serted — imagination the greatest power of the mind by 
which not poets only live and have their being — 

" For God," says he, " hath made you able to create 
worlds in your own mind which are more precious unto 
Him than those which He created; and to give and 
offer up the world unto Him, which is very delightful 
in flowing from Him, but made more in returning to 
Him." 

That power to create worlds in the mind is the 
imagination, and is the proof that the creature liveth and 
is divine. " Things unknown," he says, " have a secret 
influence on the soul," and " we love we know not 



JUNE ,3S 

what." The spirit can fill the whole world and the sta;'S 
be your jewels : " You never enjoy the world aright, till 
the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed 
with the heavens, and crowned with the stars, and per- 
ceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world." 
And our inheritance is more than the world, "because 
men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as 
you." It is a social mysticism. " The world," he says 
in another place, " does serve you, not only as it is the 
place and receptacle of all your joys, but as it is a great 
obligation laid upon all mankind, and upon every person 
in all ages, to love you as himself; as it also magnifieth 
all your companions." His is the true " public mind," as 
he calls it. " There is not," he says in another place — 
" there is not a man in the whole world that knows God, 
or himself, but he must honour you. Not only as an 
Angel or as a Cherubim, but as one redeemed by the 
blood of Christ, beloved by all Angels, Cherubims, and 
Men, the heir of the world, and as much greater than the 
Universe, as he that possesseth the house is greater than 
the house. O what a holy and blessed life would men 
lead, what joys and treasures would they be to each other, 
in what a sphere of excellency would every man move, 
how sublime and glorious would their estate be, how full 
of peace and quiet would the world be, yea, of joy and 
honour, order and beauty, did men perceive this of them- 
selves, and had they this esteem for one another ! " 

Here, as in other passages, he seems to advance to the 
position of Whitman, whom some have blamed for mak- 
ing the word " divine " of no value because he would 
apply it to all, whereas to do so is no more than to lay 
down that rule of veneration for men — and the other 



136 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

animals — which' has produced and will produce the 
greatest revolutions. 

This conception of universal divinity sprang from his 
doctrine of Love. By love we can be at one with the 
divine power which he calls God. " Love/' he says, " is 
the true means by which the world is enjoyed : our love 
to others, and others' love to us." Why, even the love 
of riches he excuses, since " we love to be rich . . . that 
we thereby might be more greatly delightful." And just 
as Richard Jefferies says that Felise loved before ever she 
loved a man, so Traherne says : " That violence where- 
with a man sometimes doteth upon one creature is but a 
little spark of that love, even towards all, which lurketh in 
his nature. . . . When we dote upon the perfections and 
beauties of some one creature, we do not love that too 
much, but other things too little." It is this love by 
which alone the commonwealth of all forms of life can 
be truly known, and men are like God when they are 
"all life and mettle and vigour and love to everything," 
and " concerned and happy " in all things. His feeling 
of the interdependence of all the world is thus insepar- 
able from his doctrine of love; love inspires it; by love 
alone can it be real and endure. " He that is in all and 
with all can never be desolate." And, nevertheless, he 
cannot always be thinking of the universe — he thought 
that the sun went round the earth — and just as he regards 
man as superior to other forms of life, so, perhaps, he 
has a filial love of " this cottage of Heaven and Earth," 
the brown land and blue sky, and one of the most beauti- 
ful of his meditations is where he says— 

"When I came into the country, and being seated 
among silent trees, and meads, and hills, had all my time 



JUNE 137 

in mine own hands, I resolved to spend it all, whatever 
it cost me, in the search of happiness, and to satiate that 
burning thirst which Nature had enkindled in me from 
my youth. In which I was so resolute, that I chose rather 
to live upon ten pounds a year, and go in leather clothes, 
and feed upon bread and water, so that I might have all 
my time clearly to myself, than to keep many thousands 
per annum in an estate of life where my time would be 
devoured in care and labour. And God was so pleased 
to accept of that desire, that from that time to this, I have 
had all things plentifully provided for me, without any 
care at all, my very study of Felicity making me more 
to prosper, than all the care in the whole world. So that 
through His blessing I live a free and a kingly life as if 
the world were turned again into Eden, or much more, 
as it is at this day." 

Traherne is remarkable in many ways, but for nothing 
more than for his mingling of man and nature in the 
celestial light of infancy. He begins, indeed, with the 
corn — the " orient and immortal wheat " — but he goes 
on to the dust and stones and gates of the town, and then 
to the old men and the young men and the children. But 
it was only on " some gilded cloud or flower " that 
Vaughan saw "some shadows of eternity"; he longs to 
travel back to his childish time and to a city of the soul, 
but a shady city of palm-trees. Wordsworth, though he 
says that " every common spirit " was " apparell'd in 
celestial light " in his early childhood, only mentions 
"meadow, grove and stream "; it is a tree, a single field, 
a flower, that reminds him of his loss; it is the fountains, 
meadows, hills and groves which he is anxious to assure 
of his lasting love. Perhaps many people's memories in 
this kind are of Nature more than of men. Even the 



138 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

social Lamb is at his deepest in recalling the child who 
was solitary in the great house and garden of Blakesmoor. 
With some the reason for this priority of Nature is that 
her solitudes are the most rich. The presence of other 
children and of adults is comparatively commonplace, 
and in becoming, permanently or temporarily, part of a 
community, the spirit makes some sacrifice. Provided, 
then, that a child is happy and at ease in the solitude of 
Nature, it is more open than in company to what is after- 
wards regarded as spiritual intercourse. But above all, 
our memories of Nature are seldom or never flawed by 
the seeming triviality, the dislikes, the disgusts, the mis- 
understandings which give to memories of human society 
something of dulness and the commonplace. Thinking 
of ourselves and other children, we may also think of 
things which make idealization impossible. Thinking of 
ourselves in a great wood or field of flowers ever so long 
ago, it is hard not to exaggerate whatever give-and-take 
there was between the spirit of the child and the vast pure 
forces of the sun and the wind. In those days we did not 
see a tree as a column of a dark stony substance support- 
ing a number of green wafers that live scarcely half a 
year, and grown for the manufacture of furniture, gates, 
and many other things; but we saw something quite 
unlike ourselves, large, gentle, of foreign tongue, without 
locomotion, yet full of the life and movement and sound 
of the leaves themselves, and also of the light, of the 
birds, and of the insects; and they were givers of a clear, 
deep joy that cannot be expressed. The brooding mind 
easily exalts this joy with the help of the disillusions 
and the knowledge and the folly and the thought of later 
years. A little time ago I heard of the death of one 



JUNE ,39 

whom I had once seemed to know well, had roamed and 
talked and been silent with him, and I should have gone 
on doing so had he not gone far away and died. And 
when I heard of his death I kept on recalling his face 
and figure to my mind under familiar conditions, in the 
old rooms, by the same river, under the same elms. As 
before, I saw him in the clothes which he used to wear, 
smiling or laughing or perhaps grim. But wherever he 
was and whatever his look, there was always something 
— the shadow of a shadow, but awful — in his face which 
made me feel that had I only seen it (and I felt that I 
ought to have seen it), in those days, I should have known 
he was to die early, with ambitions unfulfilled, far away. 

And in this same way will the brain work in musing 
of earlier times. All that has come after deepens that 
candid brow of the child as a legend will darken a bright 
brook. 

I once saw a girl of seven or eight years walking alone 
down a long grassy path in an old garden. On one hand 
rose a peaceful long slope of down; on the other, beyond 
the filberts, a high hedge shut out all but the pale blue 
sky, with white clouds resting on its lower mist like 
water-lilies on a still pool. Turning her back to the 
gabled house and its attendant beeches, she walked upon 
the narrow level path of perfect grass. The late after- 
noon sun fell full upon her, upon her brown head and 
her blue tunic, and upon the flowers of the borders at 
either side, the lowly white arabis foaming wild, the 
pansy, the white narcissus, the yellow jonquil and daf- 
fodil, the darker smouldering wallflowers, the tall yellow 
leopard's-bane, the tufts of honesty among the still dewy 
leaves of larkspur and columbine. But here and there, 



140 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

as she walked, the h'ght was dimmed by the clusters of 
cool white humming cherry-blossom hanging out of the 
hot sky. In front of her the cherry-trees seemed to meet 
and make a corridor of dark stems on either hand, paved 
green and white and gold, and roofed by milky white 
clouds that embowered the clear, wild warble of black- 
caps. Farther on, the flowers ceased and the grass was 
shadowed by new-leaved beeches, and at length in- 
volved in an uncertain mist of trees and shadows of trees, 
and there the cuckoo cried. For the child there was no 
end to the path. 

She walked slowly, at first picking a narcissus or two, 
or stooping to smell a flower and letting her hair fall over 
it to the ground; but soon she was content only to brush 
the tips of the flowers with her outstretched hands, or, 
rising on tiptoe, to force her head up amongst the lowest 
branches of cherry-bloom. Then she did nothing at all 
but gravely walk on into the shadow and into Eternity, 
dimly foreknowing her life's days. She looked forward 
as one day she would look back over a broad sea of years, 
and in a drowsy, haunted gloom, full of the cuckoo's 
note, saw herself going always on and on among the 
interlacmg shadows of tree trunks and branches and joys 
and pleasures and pains and sorrows that must have an 
end, she knew not how. She stopped, not venturing into 
that strange future imder the beeches. She stared into 
the mist, where hovered the phantoms of the big girl, the 
young woman, the lover . . . which in turn she was to 
become. Under the last cherry-tree something went out 
of her into the shadow, and those phantoms fed upon her 
blood as she stood still. But presently in the long beech 
corridors the gloom began to lighten and move and change 



JUNE 141 

to a glinting blue that approached her. " Pee-oi," shouted 
the peacock, now close at hand; " pee-oi . . . pee-oi," as 
he passed her by, and turning, she also shouted " pee-oi," 
frightening the cuckoo from the beeches, as she ran back 
among the flowers to the house. 

What is to come of our Nature-teaching in schools? 
What does it aim at? Whence does it arise? In part, 
no doubt, it is due to our desire to implant information. 
It is all very well for the poet to laugh — 

When Science has discovered something more 
We shall be happier than we were before ; 

but that is the road we are on at a high rate of speed. 
If we are fortunate we shall complete our inventory of 
the contents of heaven and earth by the time when the 
last man or woman wearing the last pair of spectacles 
has decided that, after all, it is a very good world and one 
which it is quite possible to live in. That, however, is an 
end which would not in itself be a sufficient inducement 
to push on towards it; still less can such a vision have set 
us upon the road. 

Three things, perhaps, have more particularly per- 
suaded us to pay our fare and mount for somewhere — 
three things which are really not to be sharply distin- 
guished, though it is convenient to consider them separ- 
ately. First, the literary and philosophical movement 
imperfectly described as the romantic revival and return 
to Nature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 
Poets and philosophers need private incomes. State por- 
ridge and what not, but literature and philosophy is a 
force, and for a century it has followed a course which 
was entered in the period of the French Revolution. 
This literature shows man in something like his true 



142 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

position in an infinite universe, and shows him particularly 
in his physical environment of sea, sky, mountain, rivers, 
w^oods, and other animals. Second, the enormous, aston- 
ishing, perhaps excessive, growth of towns, from which 
the only immediate relief is the pure air and sun of the 
country, a relief which is sought by the urban multitudes 
in large but insufficient numbers and for too short a time. 
Third, the triumph of science, of systematized observa- 
tion. Helped, no doubt, by the force of industrialism — 
to which it gave help in return — science has had a great 
triumph. At one time it was supposed to have fatally 
undermined poetry, romance, religion, because it had con- 
fused the minds of some poets and critics. 

These three things considered. Nature-study is inevit- 
able. Literature sends us to Nature principally for joy, 
joy of the senses, of the whole frame, of the contem- 
plative mind, and of the soul, joy which if it is found 
complete in these several ways might be called religious. 
Science sends us to Nature for knowledge. Industrialism 
and the great town sends us to Nature for health, that we 
may go on manufacturing efficiently, or, if we think right 
and have the power, that we may escape from it. But it 
would be absurd to separate joy, knowledge and health, 
except as we separate for convenience those things which 
have sent us out to seek for them; and Nature-teaching, 
if it is good, will never overlook one of these three. Joy, 
through knowledge, on a foundation of health, is what 
we appear to seek. 

There is no longer any need to hesitate in speaking of 
joy in connection with schools, yet might we not still 
complain, as Thomas Traherne did two hundred and fifty 
years ago — 



JUNE 143 

" There was never a tutor that did professly teach 
Feh'city, though that be the mistress of all other sciences. 
Nor did any of us study these things but as aliena, which 
we ought to have studied as our enjoyments. We studied 
to inform our Knowledge, but knew not for what end 
we so studied. And for lack of aiming at a certain end 
we erred in the manner." 

If we cannot somehow have a professor of Felicity we 
are undone. Perhaps Nature herself will aid. Her pre- 
sence will certainly make for felicity by enlarging her 
pupil for a time from the cloistered life which modern 
towns and their infinite conveniences and servitudes en- 
courage. Tolstoy has said that in the open air " new 
relations are formed between pupil and teacher : freer, 
simpler and more trustful "; and certainly his walk on 
a winter night with his pupils, chatting and telling tales 
(see The School at Yasnaya Polyana^ by Leo Tolstoy), 
leaves an impression of electrical activity and felicity in 
the young and old minds of that party which is hardly to 
be surpassed. And how more than by Nature's noble and 
uncontaminated forms can a sense of beauty be nourished ? 
Then, too, the reading of great poetry might well be 
associated with the study of Nature, since there is no 
great poetry which can be dissevered from Nature, while 
modern poets have all dipped their pens in the sunlight 
and wind and great waters, and appeal most to those who 
most resemble them in their loves. The great religious 
books, handed down to us by people who lived in closer 
intercourse with Nature than many of us, cannot be 
understood by indoor children and adults. Whether con- 
nected with this or that form of religion or not, whether 
taken as " intimations of immortality " or not, the most 
profound and longest remembered feelings are often those 



144 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

derived from the contact of Nature with the child's 
mind. 

Of health, though there are exactly as many physicians 
as patients, it is unnecessary to say anything, except that 
one of the pieces of knowledge — I do not speak of in- 
formation — which science has left to us is that movement 
and the working of the brain in pure air and sunlight is 
good for body and soul, especially if joy is aiding. 

Knowledge aids joy by discipline, by increasing the 
sphere of enjoyment, by showing us in animals, in plants, 
for example, what life is, how our own is related to 
theirs, showing us, in fact, our position, responsibilities 
and debts among the other inhabitants of the earth. 
Pursued out of doors where those creatures, moving and 
still, have their life and their beauty, knowledge is real. 
The senses are invited there to the subtlest and most 
delightful training, and have before them an immeasur- 
able fresh field, not a field like that of books, full of old 
opinions, but one with which every eye and brain can 
have new vital intercourse. It is open to all to make 
discoveries as to the forms and habits of things, and care 
should be taken to preserve the child from the most ver- 
bose part of modern literature, that which repeats in 
multiplied ill-chosen words stale descriptions of birds and 
flowers, etc., coupled with trivial fancies and insincere 
inventions. Let us not take the study, the lamp and the 
ink out of doors, as we used to take wild life — having 
killed it and placed it in spirits of wine — indoors. Let us 
also be careful to have knowledge as well as enthusiasm 
in our masters. Enthusiasm alone is not enthusiasm. 
There must, at some stage, be some anatomy, classifica- 
tion, pure brain- work; the teacher must be the equal in 



JUNE 145 

training of the mathematician, and he must be alive, 
which I never heard w^as a necessity for mathematicians. 
But not anatomy for all, perhaps; for some it might be 
impossible, and a study of colours, curves, perfumes, 
voices — a thousand things — might be substituted for it. 
Yet Nature-study is not designed to produce naturalists, 
any more than music is taught in order to make musicians. 
If you produce nothing but naturalists you fail, and you 
will produce very few. The aim of study is to widen 
the culture of child and man, to do systematically what 
Mark Pattison tells us in his dry way he did for himself, 
by walking and outdoor sports, then — at the late age of 
seventeen— by collecting and reading such books as The 
Natural History of Selhorne^ and finally by a slow process 
of transition from natural history into " the more abstract 
poetic emotion ... a conscious and declared poetical 
sentiment and a devoted reading of the poets." Geology 
did not come for another ten years, " to complete the 
cycle of thought, and to give that intellectual foundation 
which is required to make the testimony of the eye, roam- 
ing over an undulating surface, fruitful and satisfying. 
When I came in after years to read The Prelude I recog- 
nized, as if it were my own history which was being told, 
the steps by which the love of the country boy for his 
hills and moors grew into poetical susceptibility for all 
imaginative presentations of beauty in every direction." 
The botany, etc., would naturally be related to the neigh- 
bourhood of school or home; for there is no parish or 
district of which it might not be said, as Jefferies and 
Thoreau each said of his own, that it is a microcosm. By 
this means the natural history may easily be linked to a 
preliminary study of hill and valley and stream, the posi- 



146 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

tions of houses, mills and villages, and the reasons for them, 
and the food supply, and so on, and this in turn leads 
on to — nay, involves — all that is most real in geography 
and history. The landscape retains the most permanent 
marks of the past, and a wise examination of it should 
evoke the beginnings of the majestic sentiment of our 
oneness with the future and the past, just as natural 
history should help to give the child a sense of oneness 
with all forms of life. To put it at its lowest, some such 
cycle of knowledge is needed if a generation that insists 
more and more on living in the country, or spending many 
weeks there, is not to be bored or to be compelled to 
entrench itself behind the imported amusements of the 
town. 



CHAPTER IX 

HISTORY AND THE PARISH HAMPSHIRE CORNWALL 

Some day there will be a history of England written 
from the point of view of one parish, or town, or great 
house. Not until there is such a history will all our 
accumulations of information be justified. It will begin 
with a geological picture, something large, clear, archi- 
tectural, not a mass of insignificant names. It must be 
imaginative : it might, perhaps, lean sometimes upon Mr. 
Doughty 's Dawn in Britain. The peculiar combination of 
soil and woodland and water determines the direction and 
position and importance of the ancient trackways; it will 
determine also the position and size of the human settle- 
ments. The early marks of these — the old flint and 
metal implements, the tombs, the signs of agriculture, the 
encampments, the dwellings — will have to be clearly 
described and interpreted. Folk-lore, legend, place- 
names must be learnedly, but bravely and humanly used, 
so that the historian who has not the extensive sympathy 
and imagination of a great novelist will have no chance 
of success. What endless opportunities will he have for 
really giving life to past times in such matters as the line 
made by the edge of an old wood with the cultivated 
land, the shapes of the fields, with their borders of streams 
or hedge or copse or pond or wall or road, the purpose 
and interweaving of the roads and footpaths that suggest 
the great permanent thoughts and the lesser thoughts and 
dreams of the brain. ... As the historic centuries are 
L 2 147 



148 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

reached, the action of great events, battles, laws, roads, 
invasions, upon the parish — and of the parish upon them 
— must be shovv^n. Architecture, with many of its local 
characteristics still to be traced, will speak as a voice out 
of the stones of castle, church, manor, farm, barn and 
bridge. The birds and beasts cannot be left out. The 
names of the local families — gentle and simple — what 
histories are in them, in the curt parish registers, in tomb- 
stones, in the names of fields and houses and woods. Better 
a thousand errors so long as they are human than a thou- 
sand truths lying like broken snail-shells round the anvil 
of a thrush. If only those poems which are place-names 
could be translated at last, the pretty, the odd, the 
romantic, the racy names of copse and field and lane and 
house. What a flavour there is about the Bassetts, 
the Boughtons, the Worthys, the Tarrants, Winter- 
bournes, Deverills, Manningfords, the Suttons : what 
goodly names of the South Country — Woodmansterne, 
Hollingbourne, Horsmonden, Wolstanbury, Brockenhurst, 
Caburn, Lydiard Tregoze, Lydiard Miliicent, Clevancy, 
Amesbury, Amberley (I once tried to make a beautiful 
name and in the end it was Amberley, in which Time 
had forestalled me); what sweet names Penshurst, Frens- 
ham, Firle, Nutley, Appleshaw, Hambledon, Cranbrook, 
Fordingbridge, Melksham, Lambourn, Draycot, Buscot, 
Kelmscot, Yatton, Yalding, Downe, Cowden, Iping, 
Cowfold, Ashe, Liss. . . . Then there are the histories 
of roads. Every traveller in Hampshire remembers the 
road that sways with airy motion and bird-like curves 
down from the high land of clay and flint through the 
chalk to the sand and the river. It doubles round the 
head of a coombe, and the whole descent is through beech 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 149 

woods uninterrupted and all but impenetrable to the eye 
above or below except where once or twice it looks 
through an arrow slit to the blue vale and the castled 
promontory of Chanctonbury twenty miles south-east. As 
the road is a mere ledge on the side of a very steep hill 
the woods below it hurry down to a precipitous pit full 
of the glimmering, trembling and murmuring of innumer- 
able leaves and no sight or sound of men. It is said to 
have been made more than half a century ago to take the 
place of the rash straight coach road which now enters it 
near its base. A deeply-worn, narrow and disused track 
joining it more than half-way down suggests that the 
lower part was made by the widening of an old road; but 
much of the upper half is new. Certainly the road as it 
now is, broad and gently bending round the steep coombe, 
is new, and it was made at the expense of the last of a 
family which had long owned the manor house near the 
entrance of the coombe. His were all the hanging beech 
woods — huge as the sky — upon the hill, and through them 
the road-makers conducted this noble and pleasant way. 
But near the top they deviated by a few yards into an- 
other estate. The owner would not give way. A lawsuit 
was begun, and it was not over when the day came for 
the road to be open for traffic according to the contract or, 
if not, to pass out of the defaulter's hands. The day 
passed; the contract was broken; the speculation had 
failed, and the tolls would never fill the pockets of the 
lord of the manor. He was ruined, and left his long 
white house by the rivulet and its chain of pools, his 
farms and cottages, his high fruit walls, his uncounted 
beeches, the home of a hundred owls, his Spanish chest- 
nuts above the rocky lane, his horse-chestnut and sycamore 



150 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

stately in groups, his mighty wych elms, his apple trees 
and all their mistletoe, his walnut trees, and the long 
bay of sky that was framed by his tall woods east and 
north and west. 

There are many places which nobody can look upon 
without being consciously influenced by a sense of their 
history. It is a battlefield, and the earth shows the scars 
of its old wounds; or a castle or cathedral of distinct 
renown rises among the oaks; or a manor house or 
cottage, or tomb or woodland walk that speaks of a dead 
poet or soldier. Then, according to the extent or care 
of our reading and the clearness of our imagination, we 
can pour into the groves or on the turf tumultuous or 
silent armies, or solitary man or woman. It is a deeply- 
worn coast; the spring tide gnaws the yellow cliff, and 
the wind files it with unceasing hiss, and the relics of 
every age, skull and weapon and shroudpin and coin and 
carven stone, are spread out upon the clean, untrodden 
sand, and the learned, the imaginative, the fanciful, the 
utterly unhistoric and merely human man exercises his 
spirit upon them, and responds, if only for a moment. In 
some places history has wrought like an earthquake, in 
others like an ant or mole; everywhere, permanently; 
so that if we but knew or cared, every swelling of the 
grass, every wavering line of hedge or path or road were 
an inscription, brief as an epitaph, in many languages and 
characters. But most of us know only a few of these 
unspoken languages of the past, and only a few words in 
each. Wars and parliaments are but dim, soundless, and 
formless happenings in the brain; toil and passion of 
generations produce only an enriching of the light within 
the glades, and a solemnizing of the shadows. 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 151 

Out of a whole century or age we remember nothing 
vividly and in a manner that appeals to the eye, except 
some such picture as that which Gerald of Wales gives 
of a Welsh prince, Cyneuric, son of Rhys. He was tall 
and handsome, fair-complexioned, his hair curled; his 
dress was a thin cloak, and under that a shirt, his legs 
and feet being bare, regardless of thistle and brier; a man 
to whom nature and not art had given his beauty and 
comely bearing. Outside Wales, and in ages far removed 
from the twelfth century, this figure of a man will follow 
us, and help to animate any wild scene that is coloured by 
antiquity. It is some such man, his fair hair perhaps 
exchanged for black, and his nobility more animal and 
clothed in skins, that we see, if we see a man at all, when 
we muse deeply upon the old road worn deep into the" 
chalk, among burial mound and encampment; we feel 
rather than see the innumerable companies of men like 
this, following their small cattle to the stream or the dew- 
pond, wearing out the hard eartK with their naked feet 
and trailing ash staves. Going up such a road, between 
steep banks of chalk and the roots and projecting bases 
of beeches whose foliage meets overhead — a road worn 
twenty feet deep, and now scarce ever used as a footpath 
except by fox and hare — we may be half-conscious that 
we have clirnbed that way before during the furrowing 
of the road, and we move as in a dream between this age 
and that dim one which we vainly strive to recover. 

But because we are imperfectly versed in history, we are 
not therefore blind to the past. The eye that sees the 
things of to-day, and the ear that hears, the mind that 
contemplates or dreams, is itself an instrument of an 
antiquity equal to whatever it is called upon to appre- 



152 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

hend. Wc are not merely twentieth-century Londoners 
b^ Kentish men or Welshmen. We belong to the days 
of Wordsworth, of Elizabeth, of Richard Plantagenet, of 
Harold, of the earliest bards. We, too, like Taliesin, have 
borne a banner before Alexander, have been with our 
Lord in the manger of the ass, have been in India, and 
with the " remnant of Troia," and with Noah in the ark, 
and our original country is " the region of the summer 
stars." And of these many folds in our nature the face 
of the earth reminds us, and perhaps, even where there are 
no more marks visible upon the land than there were in 
Eden, we are aware of the passing of time in ways too 
difficult and strange for the explanation of historian and 
zoologist and philosopher. It is this manifold nature that 
responds with such indescribable depth and variety to the 
appeals of many landscapes. 

We come to a huge, flat-bottomed, grassy coombe, 
smooth as a racecourse, that winds out of the cornland 
into the heart of the Downs. It is like the bed of a river 
of great depth. At its entrance beeches clothe either side; 
but presently they cease, and up the steep juniper slopes 
go the paths of hares, of the herds and flocks of earliest 
ages and of the men and women and children also, 
whose children's children's children have forgotten them 
though not perhaps their philosophy. The grass of the 
slope is mingled with small sweet herbage, the salad 
burnet rosy-stemmed, the orange bird's-foot trefoil, the 
purple thyme, the fine white flax, the delicatest golden 
hawk-bit, and basil and marjoram, and rosettes of crimson 
thistles, all sunny warm and fragrant, glittering and glow- 
ing or melting into a simmering haze, musical with grass- 
hoppers and a-flutter with blue butterflies, so that the 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 153 

earth seems to be a thick-furred, genial animal. At length 
the windings shut out the plain, and the coombe is a green 
hall roofed by the hot blue sky. Its walls are steeper than 
ever, and the burrowings of the rabbits have streaked the 
grasses with long splashes — like those made by sea-birds 
on rocks — of white chalk. The curves of these walls are 
like those of the flight of the swifts that dive overhead. 
Here there are no human paths, no sign of house, of 
grave, of herd, of cultivation. It is the world's end, and 
the rabbits race up and down as in a dream of solitude. 

Yet the mind is not discontented and unfed. This is 
no boundless solitude of ocean where one may take a kind 
of pleasure 

To float for ever with a careless course] 
And think himself the only being alive. 

It is not an end but a beginning that we have reached. 
These are the elements — pure earth and wind and sun- 
light — out of which beauty and joy arise, original and 
ancient, for ever young. Their presence restores us not 
to the Middle Ages, not to the days of Mr. Doughty 's 
heroic princes and princesses of Britain,^ not to any dim 
archaeologist's world of reeking marsh and wood, of 
mammoth and brutish men, but to a region out of space 
and out of time in which life and thought and physical 
health are in harmony with sun and earth, fragrant as 
the flowers in the grass, blithe as the grasshopper, swift 
as the hares, divine; and out of it all arises a vision of the 
man who will embody this thought, a man whom human 
infelicity, discontented with the past, has placed in a 
golden age still farther back, for the sufficient reason 

1 The Daivn in Britain, by Charles M. Doughty. 



154 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

that in every age he has been a dream, and our dreaming 
is of the dawn or the night, always disappointed but 
undaunted by the day that follows. And so no storied 
valley or hillside is richer in humanity than this coombe. 
It is one of the countless Edens where we arc in contact 
not with the soldier and ploughman and mason that 
change the surface of the earth, but with prophet and poet 
who have ever lived to trace to Nature and to the early 
ages the health and vigour of men. There is the greatest 
antiquity of all, peace and purity and simplicity, and in the 
midst is the mother Earth, the young mother of the world, 
with a face like Ceres before she had lost Persephone 
in the underworld. In fact, so blessed is this solitary 
hall that after climbing out it is mournful to see the 
rabbit-worn tunnels and the Roman camp on the ridge. 



CORNWALL 

In Cornwall, where the wrinkles and angles of the 
earth's age are left to show, antiquity plays a giant's part 
on every hand. What a curious effect have those ruins, 
all but invisible among the sands, the sea-blue scabious, the 
tamarisk and rush, though at night they seem not 
inaudible when the wild air is full of crying ! Some that 
are not nearly as old are almost as magical. One there 
is that stands near a great water, cut off from a little town 
and from the world by a round green hill and touched by 
no road but only by a wandering path. At the foot of this 
hill, among yellow mounds of sand, under blue sky, the 
church is dark and alone. It is not very old — not five 
centuries — and is of plainest masonry : its blunt short spire 
of slate slabs that leans slightly to one side, with the 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 155 

smallest of perforated slate windows at the base, has a 
look of age and rusticity. In the churchyard is a rough 
grey cross of stone — a disc supported by a pillar. It is 
surrounded by the waving noiseless tamarisk. It looks 
northward over the sandhills at a blue bay, guarded on the 
west by tall grey cliffs which a white column surmounts. 

For a time the nearer sandhills have rested and clothed 
themselves in bird's-foqt trefoil, thyme, eyebright and 
short turf : but once the church was buried beneath them. 
Between the round hill and the church a tiny stream 
sidles along through a level hiding-place of flags and 
yellow flag flowers, of purple figwort and purple orchis 
and green grass. 

A cormorant flies low across the sky — that sable bird 
which seems to belong to the old time, the time of badger 
and beaver, of ancient men who rose up out of the crags 
of this coast. To them, when the cuckoo first called 
one April, came over the blue sea a small brown ship, 
followed by three seals, and out of it descended a Chris- 
tian from Ireland, black-haired, blue-eyed, with ready 
red lips and deep sweet voice and spoke to them, all alone. 
He told them of a power that ruled the blue waters and 
shifting sands, who could move the round green hill to 
the rock of the white gulls; taller and grimmer than the 
cloven headland yet sweet and gentle as the fennel above; 
deep-voiced as the Atlantic storm, tender also as the sedge- 
warbler in the flags below the hill; whose palace was 
loftier than the blue to which the lark was now soaring, 
milder and richer than the meadows in May and ever- 
lasting; and his attendants were more numerous and 
bright than the herring under a moon of frost. The milk- 
pails should be fuller and the grass deeper and the corn 



156 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

heavier in the ear if they believed in this; the pilchards 
should be as v^^ater boiling in the bay; and they should 
have wings as of the white birds that lounged about the 
precipices of the coast. And all the time the three seals 
lay with their heads and backs above the shallows and 
watched. Perhaps the men believed his word; perhaps 
they dropped him over the precipice to see whether he 
also flew like a gull : but here is the church named after 
him. 

All along the coast (and especially where it is lofty and 
houseless, and on the ledges of the crags the young grey 
gulls unable to fly bob their heads seaward and try to 
scream like their parents who wheel far and near with 
double yodeling cry), there are many rounded barrows 
looking out to sea. And there are some amidst the sand- 
hills, bare and corrugated by the wind and heaved up like 
a feather-bed, their edges golden against the blue sky or 
mangily covered by drab marram grass that whistles 
wintrily; and near by the blue sea, slightly roughened as 
by a harrow, sleeps calm but foamy among cinder- 
coloured isles; donkeys graze on the brown turf, larks 
rise and fall and curlews go by; a cuckoo sings among 
the deserted mines. But the barrows are most noble on 
the high heather and grass. The lonely turf is full of 
lilac scabious flowers and crimson knapweed among the 
solid mounds of gorse. The brown-green-grey of the dry 
summer grass reveals myriads of the flowers of thyme, of 
stonecrop yellow and white, of pearly eyebright, of golden 
lady's fingers, and the white or grey clover with its purest 
and earthiest of all fragrances. Here and there steep 
tiacks descend slantwise among the thrift-grown crags 
to the sea, or promise to descend but end abruptly in 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 157 

precipices. On the barrows themselves, which are either 
isolated or in a group of two or three, grow thistle and 
gorse. They command mile upon mile of cliff and sea. 
In their sight the great headlands run out to sea and sink- 
ing seem to rise again a few miles out in a sheer island, 
so that they resemble couchant beasts with backs under 
water but heads and haunches upreared. The cliffs are 
cleft many times by steep-sided coves, some with broad 
sand and shallow water among purple rocks, the outlet 
of a rivulet; others ending precipitously so that the stream 
suddenly plunges into the black sea among a huddle of 
sunless boulders. Near such a stream there will be a grey 
farm amid grey outbuildings — with a carved wooden eagle 
from the wreckage of the cove, or a mermaid, once a 
figure-head with fair long hair and round bosom, built 
into the wall of a barn. Or there is a briny hamlet 
grouped steeply on either side of the stream which gurgles 
among the pebbles down to the feet of the bearded fisher- 
man and the ships a-gleam. Or perhaps there is no stream 
at all, and bramble and gorse come down dry and hot to 
the lips of the emerald and purple pools. Deep roads 
from the sea to the cliff-top have been worn by smuggler 
and fisherman and miner, climbing and descending. In- 
land shows a solitary pinnacled church tower, rosy in the 
warm evening — a thin line of trees, long bare stems and 
dark foliage matted — and farther still the ridges of misty 
granite, rough as the back of a perch. 

Of all the rocky land, of the sapphire sea white with 
quiet foam, the barrows are masters. The breaking away 
of the rock has brought them nearer to the sea as it has 
annihilated some and cut off the cliff-ways in mid-career. 
They stand in the unenclosed waste and are removed from 



158 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

all human uses and from most wayfaring. Thus they 
share the subh'mfty of beacons and are about to show that 
tombs also have their deaths. Linnet and stonechat and 
pipit seem to attend upon them, with pretty voices and 
motions and a certain ghastliness, as of shadows, given to 
their cheerful and sudden fiittings by the solemn neigh- 
bourhood. But most of their hold upon the spirit they 
owe to their powerful suggestion that here upon the high 
sea border was once lived a bold proud life, like that of 
Beowulf, whose words, when he was dying from the 
wounds of his last victory, were : " Bid the warriors raise 
a funeral mound to flash with fire on a promontory above 
the sea, that it may stand high and be a memorial by 
which my people shall remember me, and seafarers driving 
their tall ships through the mist of the sea shall say : 
' Beowulf's Mound.' " 

In Cornwall as in Wales, these monuments are the 
more impressive, because the earth, wasting with them 
and showing her bones, takes their part. There are days 
when the age of the Downs, strewn with tumuli and 
the remnants of camp and village, is incredible; or rather 
they seem in the course of long time to have grown 
smooth and soft and kind, and to be, like a rounded 
languid cloud, an expression of Earth's summer bliss of 
afternoon. But granite and slate and sandstone jut out, 
and in whatsoever weather speak rather of the cold, drear, 
hard, windy dawn. Nothing can soften the lines of 
Trendreen or Brown Willy or Carn Galver against the 
sky. The small stone-hedged ploughlands amidst brake 
and gorse do but accentuate the wildness of the land from 
which they have been won. The deserted mines are frozen 
cries of despair as if they had perished in conflict with 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 159 

the waste; and in a few years their chimneys standing 
amidst rotted woodwork, the falh'ng masonry, the engine 
rusty, huge and still (the abode of rabbits, and all over- 
grown with bedstraw, the stern thistle and wizard henbane) 
are in keeping with the miles of barren land, littered with 
rough silvered stones among heather and furze, whose 
many barrows are deep in fern and bramble and foxglove. 
The cotton grass raises its pure nodding white. The old 
roads dive among still more furze and bracken and bram- 
ble and foxglove, and on every side the land grows no such 
crop as that of grey stones. Even in the midst of occa- 
sional cornfield or weedless pasture a long grey upriglit 
stone speaks of the past. In many places men have set up 
these stones, roughly squaring some of them, in the form 
of a circle or in groups of circles — and over them beats the 
buzzard in slow hesitating and swerving flight. In one place 
the work of Nature might be mistaken for that of man. 
On a natural hillock stands what appears to be the ruin 
of an irregularly heaped wall of grey rock, roughened 
by dark-grey lichen, built of enormous angular frag- 
ments like the masonry of a giant's child. Near at hand, 
bracken, pink stonecrop, heather and bright gold tormentil 
soften it; but at a distance it stands black against the 
summer sky, touclied with the pathos of man's handiwork 
overthrown, yet certainly an accident of Nature. It 
commands Cape Cornwall and the harsh sea, and St. Just 
with its horned church tower. On every hand lie crom- 
lech, camp, circle, hut and tumulus of the unwritten 
years. They are confused and mingled with the natural 
litter of a barren land. It is a silent Bedlam of history, 
a senseless cemetery or museum, amidst which we walk 
as animals must do when they see those valleys full of 



i6o THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

skeletons where their kind are said to go punctually to 
die. There are enough of the dead; they outnumber the 
living; and there those trite truths burst with life and 
drum upon the tympanum with ambiguous fatal voices. 
At the end of this many-barrowed moor, yet not in it, 
there is a solitary circle of grey stones, where the cry of the 
past is less vociferous, less bewildering, than on the moor 
itself, but more intense. Nineteen tall, grey stones stand 
round a taller, pointed one that is heavily bowed, amidst 
long grass and bracken and furze. A track passes close 
by, but does not enter the circle; the grass is unbent 
except by the weight of its bloom. It bears a name that 
connects it with the assembling and rivalry of the bards 
of Britain. Here, under the sky, they met, leaning upon 
the stones, tall, fair men of peace, but half- warriors, 
whose songs could change ploughshare into sword. 
Here they met, and the growth of the grass, the perfec- 
tion of the stones (except that one stoops as with age), 
and the silence, suggest that since the last bard left it, 
in robe of blue or white or green — the colours of sky and 
cloud and grass upon this fair day — the circle has been 
unmolested, and the law obeyed which forbade any but 
a bard to enter it. Sky-blue was the colour of a chief 
bard's robe, emblematic of peace and heavenly calm, and 
of unchangeableness. White, the colour of the Druid's 
dress, was the emblem of light, and of its correlatives, 
purity of conduct, wisdom, and piety. Green was the 
colour of the youthful ovate's robe, for it was the emblem 
of growth. Their uniformity of colour signified perfect 
truth. And the inscription upon the chair of the bards 
of Beisgawen was, " Nothing is that is not for ever and 
ever." Blue and white and green, peace and light and 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH i6i 

growth — " Nothing is that is not for ever and ever " — 
these things and the blue sky, the vi^hite, cloudy hall of 
the sun, and the green bough and grass, hallowed the 
ancient stones, and clearer than any vision of tall bards 
in the morning of the world was the tranquil delight of 
being thus " teased out of time " in the presence of this 
ancientness. 

It is strange to pass from these monumental moors 
straight to the sea which records the moments, not the 
years or the centuries. In fine weather especially its 
colour — when, for example, it is faintly corrugated and of 
a blue that melts towards the horizon into such a hue 
that it is indistinguishable from the violet wall of dawn — 
is a perpetual astonishment on account of its unearthliness 
and evanescence. The mind does not at once accept the 
fact that here underneath our eyes is, as it were, another 
sky. The physical act of looking up induces a special 
mood of solemnity and veneration, and during the act 
the eyes meet with a fitting object in the stainless heavens. 
Looking down we are used to seeing the earth, the road, 
the footpath, the floor, the hearth; but when, instead, it is 
the sea and not any of these things, although our feet 
are on firm land, the solemnity is of another kind. In its 
anger the sea becomes humanized or animalized : we see 
resemblances to familiar things. There is, for instance, 
an hour sometimes after sunset, when the grey sky coldly 
lights the lines of white plumes on a steely sea, and they 
have an inevitable likeness to a trampling chivalry that 
charges upon a foe. But a calm sea is incomparable except 
to moods of the mind. It is then as remote from the 
earth and earthly things as the sky, and the remoteness 
is the more astonishing because it is almost within our 

M 



i62 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

grasp. It is no wonder that a great idea was expressed by 
the fortunate islands in the sea. The youth fulness, the 
incorruptibih'ty of the sea, continually renewing itself, the 
same from generation to generation, prepares it as a fit 
sanctuary of the immortal dead. So at least we are apt 
to think at certain times, coming from the heavy, scarred, 
tormented earth to that immense aery plain of peacock 
blue. And yet at other times that same unearthliness 
will suggest quite other thoughts. It has not changed 
and shrunken and grown like the earth; it is not sun- 
warmed : it is a monster that has lain unmoved by time, 
sleeping and moaning outside the gates within which men 
and animals have become what they are. Actually that 
cold fatal element and its myriad population without a 
sound brings a wistfulness into the mind as if it could 
feel back and dimly recall the dawn of time when the 
sea was incomprehensible and impassable, when the earth 
had but lately risen out of the waters and was yet again 
to descend beneath : it becomes a type of the waste where 
everything is unknown or uncertain except death, pour- 
ing into the brain the thoughts that men have had on 
looking out over untrodden mountain, forest, swamp, in 
the drizzling dawn of the world. The sea is exactly 
what it was when mountain, forest, swamp were imper- 
turbable enemies, and the sight of it restores the ancient 
fear. I remember one dawn above all others when this 
restoration was complete. When it was yet dark the 
wind rose gustily under a low grey sky and a lark sang 
amidst the moan of gorse and the creak of gates and the 
deeply-taken breath of the tide at the full. Nor was it 
yet light when the gulls began to wheel and wind and 
float with a motion like foam on a whirlpool or inter- 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 163 

woven snow. They wheeled about the masts of fishing- 
boats that nodded and kissed and crossed in a steep cove 
of crags whose black edges were slavered by the foam of 
the dark sea; and there were no men among the boats or 
about the grey houses that looked past the walls of the 
cove to the grim staircase and sea-doors of a black head- 
land, whose perpendicular rocks stood up far out of the 
reach of the wings fashioned in the likeness of gigantic 
idols. The higher crags were bushy and scaly with 
lichen, and they were cushioned upon thrift and bird's-foot 
trefoil and white bladder campion. It was a bristling sea, 
not in the least stormy, but bristling, dark and cold 
through the slow colourless dawn, dark and cold and 
immense; and at the edge of it the earth knelt, offering up 
the music of a small flitting bird and the beauty of small 
flowers, white and gold, to those idols. They were 
terrible enough. But the sea was more terrible; for it was 
the god of whom those rocks were the poor childish 
images, and it seemed that the god had just then disclosed 
his true nature and hence the pitiful loveliness of the 
flowers, the pitiful sweetness of the bird that sang among 
the rocks at the margin of the kind earth. 

Now and then the sea will startle by some resemblance 
to the earth. Thus I have come unexpectedly in sight 
of it on a strange coast and have not known that it was 
the sea. A gale from the north-east was blowing, and 
it was late afternoon in mid-winter. The land was sandy 
moorland, treeless and dark with iron-coloured heather. 
A mile away I saw rising up into the sky what seemed 
a peaty mountain in Cardiganshire, as it would be in a 
tempest of rain, and it was only when I was near the cliff 
and could see the three long walls of white waves towards 
M 2 



1 64 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

the shore that I knew it was the sea. More common is 
the calm dark-blue sea in mid-summer, over which go 
criss-cross bands of lighter hue, like pale moorland paths 
winding about a moor. 

In a stern land like Cornwall that so often refuses the 
consolations of grass and herb and tree, the relentings are 
the more gracious. These are to be found in a whole 
valley where there are sloping fields of corn and grass 
divided by green hedges, and woods rich and misty and 
warm, and the bones of the land are buried away until 
it ends in a bay where high and cavernous dark rocks 
stand on either side of blue water and level sand. Often 
all the sweetness of the country round seems to have run 
into one great roadside hedge as dewdrops collect in the 
bosom of a leaf. The stones of the original wall are 
themselves deeply hidden in turf, or from the crevices 
ferns descend and the pale blooms of pennywort rise up; 
the lichen is furry and the yellow or pink stonecrop is 
neat and dense; ivy climbs closely up and hangs down in 
loose array. Up from the top of the wall or mound rise 
bramble and gorse and woodbine over them, or brier and 
thorn and woodbine again; and the tallest and massiest 
of foxgloves cleave through these with their bells, half 
a hundred of them in rows five deep already open and 
as many more yet in bud, dense as grapes, dewy, mur- 
murous; and below the foxgloves are slender parsleys, 
rough wood sage and poppies. At the foot of the wall, 
between it and the road, is a grassy strip, where the 
yarrow grows feathery with gilded cinque foil and tor- 
mentil — or above nettles as dense as corn rise large discs 
of white hog parsnip flower, a coarse and often dirty 
flower that has a dry smell of summer — or bramble and 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 165 

brier arch this way and that their green and rosy and 
purple stems, bright leaves, flowers pink and white. Only 
the shin-breaking Cornish stiles of stone, interrupting the 
hedge and giving a view of barren hills or craggy-sided 
sea, destroy the illusion created by this exuberance of herb 
and bush and the perfume of woodbine and rose. 

Nowhere is the stateliness or grace or privacy of trees 
more conspicuous than about the Cornish towns and 
farms. The tall round-topped elms above Padstow, for 
example, would be natural and acceptable unconsciously 
elsewhere; but above those crossing lines of roof they 
have an indescribable benevolence. The farmhouses are 
usually square, dry and grey, being built of slate with 
grey-slated roofs painted by lichen; some are white- 
washed; in some, indeed, the stones are of many greys and 
blues, with yellowish and reddish tinges, hard, but warm 
in the sun and comforting to look at when close to the 
sea and some ruinous promontory; few are screened by 
ivy or climbing rose. The farm buildings are of the same 
kind, relieved by yellow straw, the many hues of hay, 
the purple bracken stacks, the dark peat. The gates are 
coarse and mean, of iron or of cheap or rough wood, 
lightly made, patched, held together by string, and owing 
their only charm to the chance use of the curved ribs 
of ships as gate-posts. But to many of the buildings 
sycamore and ash and apple trees bent above tall grass 
lend their beauty of line, of mass, of colour, of shade, 
of sound and of many motions. I can never forget the 
rows of ash trees, the breezy sycamores and the tamarisks 
by ancient Harlyn, with its barrows on the hill, its ruins 
of chapel and church among rushes and poppies, its little 
oak wood by the sandy river mouth where the men of 



1 66 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

old time buried their dead, the poppied corn, the white 
gulls and their black shadows wheeling over sunny turf. 
The file of lean woods seen between Perranporth and 
St. Agnes inland. The sycamores above the farm near 
Towan cross where the road dips and the deep furrow of 
a little valley winds, with hay upon its slopes, out to sea. 
The green wood, long and beautiful, below the gentle 
brown slopes of Hudder Down. The several companies 
of trees in the valley by the Red River, and the white 
farm of Reskajeage near by, under ash and elm, sycamore 
and wych-elm and lime, a rough orchard of apples and a 
gnarled squat medlar to one side — the trees grouped as 
human figures are when they begin to move after some 
tense episode. The wych-elm, sycamore and ash round 
the tower of Gwithian church and in amongst the few 
thatched cottages alongside the yellow towans and violet 
sea. In a land of deserted roofless houses with solid 
chimneys that no man wants, the narrow copse of small 
spindly oaks upholding with bare crooked stems as of 
stone a screen of leaves, above a brooklet that runs to 
the sea through dense rush and foxglove and thistle where 
the sedge-warbler sings. The long low mound of green 
wood nearest to Land's End. Between Tregothal and 
Bosfranken, the wet copse in a narrow valley, where red 
campion and bracken and bramble are unpenetrated among 
flowery elders, sallows, thorns and sycamores. A farm 
that has a water-mill and water gloomy and crystal under 
sycamore and ash. The thin halting procession of almost 
branchless trees on the ridge of the Beacon above Sancreed 
— a procession that seems even at mid-day to move in 
another world, in the world and in the age of the stone 
circles and cairns and cromlechs of the moor beyond. 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 167 

The sycamore and elder that surround and tower above 
Tregonebris near Boscawen Un. The avenue of ash and 
elm and wych-elm and sycamore, very close together, 
leading from grey Nancothan mill, where the dark- 
brown water mingles its noise with the rustling trees. 
The wych-elms and golden-fruited sycamores about the 
roads near St. Hilary, and the long avenue of ash up to 
the church itself, and the elms through which the evening 
music floats, amidst the smell of hay, in a misty moun- 
tained sunset. 

Under the flaming fleeces of a precipitous sky, in a 
windless hush and at low tide, I descended to a narrow 
distinct valley just where a stream ran clear and slow 
through level sands to a bay, between headlands of rocks 
and of caves among the rocks. The sides of the valley 
near the sea were high and steep and of grass until their 
abrupt end in a low but perpendicular wall of rock just 
above the river sands. Inland the valley began to wind 
and at the bend trees came darkly trooping down the 
slopes to the water. Immediately opposite the ford — the 
wet sands being unscathed by any foot or hoof or wheel — 
a tributary ran into the river through a gorge of its own. 
It was a gorge not above a hundred feet across, and its 
floor was of sand save where the brook was running down, 
and this floor was all in shadow because the banks were 
clothed in thick underwood and in ash, sycamore, wych- 
elm and oak meeting overhead. And in these sands also 
there was no footprint save of the retreated sea. There 
was no house, nor wall, nor road. And there was no 
sound in the caverns of foliage except one call of a cuckoo 
as I entered and the warbling of a blackbird that mused 
in the oaks and then laughed and was silent and mused 



1 68 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

again and filled the mind with the fairest images of soli- 
tude — solitude where a maid, thinking of naught, un- 
thought of, unseen, combs out her yellow hair and lets 
her spirit slip down into the tresses — where a man fearful 
of his kind ascends out of the deeps of himself so that his 
eyes look bravely and his face unstiffens and unwrinkles 
and his motion and gesture is fast and free — where a 
child walks and stops and runs and sings in careless joy 
that takes him winding far out into abysses of eternity 
and makes him free of them, so that years afterward the 
hour and place and sky return, and the eternity on which 
they opened as a casement, but not the child, not the 

joy. 

I like trees for the cool evening voices of their many 
leaves, for their cloudy forms linked to earth by stately 
stems — for the pale lifting of the sycamore leaves in 
breezes and also their drooping, hushed and massed 
repose, for the myriad division of the light ash leaves — for 
their straight pillars and for the twisted branch work, 
for their still shade and their rippling or calm shimmering 
or dimly glowing light, for the quicksilver drip of dawn, 
for their solemnity and their dancing, for all their sounds 
and motions — their slow-heaved sighs, their nocturnal 
murmurs, their fitful fingerings at thunder time, their 
swishing and tossing and hissing in violent rain, the roar 
of their congregations before the south-west wind when 
it seems that they must lift up the land and fly away 
with it, for their rustlings of welcome in harvest heat 
— for their kindliness and their serene remoteness and 
inhumanity, and especially the massiest of the trees that 
have also the glory of motion, the sycamores, which are 
the chief tree of Cornwall, as the beeches and yews are 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 169 

of the Downs, the oaks of the Weald, the elms of the 
Wiltshire vales. 

Before I part from trees I should like to mention those 
of mid-Somerset — and above all, the elms. I am thinking 
of them as they are at noon on the hottest days of hay- 
making at the end of June. The sky is hot, its pale blue 
without pity and changing to a yellow of mist near the 
horizon. The land is level and all of grass, and where 
the hay is not spread in swathes the grass is almost 
invisible for the daisies on its motionless surface. Here and 
there the mower whirrs and seems natural music, like the 
grasshopper's, of the burning eartli. Through the levels 
wind the heavy-topped grey willows of a hidden stream. 
In the hedges and in the wide fields and about the still, 
silent farmhouses of stone there are many elms. They 
are tall and slender despite their full mounded summits. 
They cast no shade. In the great heat their green is all 
but grey, and their leaves are lost in the mist which their 
mingling creates. Grey-hooded, grey-mantled, they 
seem to be stealing away over the fields to the sanctuary 
of the dark-wooded hills, low and round and lapped 
entirely in leaves, which stand in the mist at the edge of 
the plain — to be leaving that plain to the possession of 
the whirring mower and the sun of almighty summer. 

Sycamores solemnized the Cornish farm in the 
twilight, where I asked the farmer's wife if she could let 
us have two beds for the night. She stood in the door- 
way, hands on hips, watching her grandchildren's last 
excited minutes of play in the rickyard. 

" He's the master," she replied, pointing to the farmer 
who was talking to his carter, between the rickyard 
and the door, under the sycamores. 



170 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

"Two beds?" 

"That is what we should h'ke," said my friend 
and I. 

"What do you want with two beds? " he asked with 
a tinge of scorn as well as of pity in his frank amusement. 
"My missus and I have only had one bed these forty 
years." 

Here he laughed so gaily that he could not have 
embarrassed the very devil of puritanism, and turning to 
his man he called forth a deep bass laughter and from 
his wife a peal that shook her arms so that she raised 
them to the sides of the porch for better support; the 
children also turned their laughter our way. 

" But perhaps one of you kicks in his sleep ? . . . We 
don't. . . . Come inside. I dare say you are tired. . . . 
Good-night, John. Now, children, up with you." 

I think they were the most excellent pair of man and 
woman I ever saw. Both were of a splendid physical 
type, she the more energetic, black-haired, black-eyed, 
plump and tall and straight; he the more enduring, fair- 
haired and bearded, blue-eyed, hardly her equal in height, 
certainly not in words. In forty years neither had over- 
powered the other. They had not even agreed to take 
separate paths, but like two school-boys, new friends, they 
could afford to contend together in opinions without fear 
of damage or of lazy truce. He had ploughed and sowed 
and reaped : she had borne him seven children, had baked 
and churned and stitched. They had loved sweet things 
together, and, with curses at times, their children and the 
land. Physical strength and purity — that were in them 
the whole of morality — seemed to have given them that 
equality with the conditions of life which philosophy has 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 171 

done nothing but talk about. They of all men and 
women had perhaps jarred least upon the music of the 
spheres. They had the right and power to live, and the 
end was laughter. 

In all those years they had been separated but once. 
Until four years ago she had not been out of Cornwall 
except to bury her mother, who had suddenly died in 
London. Two hundred pounds fell to her share on that 
death and the money arrived one morning after the 
harvest thanksgiving. For a week she continued to go 
about her work in the old way save that she sent rather 
hurriedly for a daughter who had just left her place as 
cook in Exeter. At the end of the week, having stored 
the apples and shown her daughter how to use the 
separator, she walked in to Penzance in her best clothes 
but without even a handbag; her husband was out with 
his gun. By the next day she was at Liverpool. She sent 
off a picture postcard, with a little note written by the 
shopkeeper, saying that she would be back by Christmas, 
and telling her husband to sell the old bull. Then she 
sailed for New York. She saw Niagara; she visited her 
nephew, John Davy, at Cincinnati; she spent two weeks 
in railway travelling west and south, and saw the Indians. 
Four days before Christmas she was back in the rickyard, 
driving before her a young bull and carrying in her hand 
a bunch of maize. 

" Well, Ann, you're back before your time," said her 
husband, after praising the beast. 

" Yes, Samuel, and I feel as if I could whitewash the 
dairy, that I do," said she. 

"Suppose you wait till to-morrow," proposed Sam 
Davy. 



172 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

"I think I will, for I can hear that Mary is behind 
with the separator." 

"She's a good girl, but she hasn't got your patience, 
my dear." 

" Oh, here, Sam, here's the change," she said, giving 
him the bunch of maize. 

In Cornwall many of the women looked less English 
than the men. The noticeable men were fair-haired 
and of fair complexion, blue-eyed and rather small- 
headed, upright and of good bearing. The noticeable 
women had black hair, pale, seldom swarthy, faces, very 
dark eyes. Perhaps the eyes were more foreign than 
anything else in them : they were singularly immobile 
and seldom changed in expression with their voices. 
Several of the dark-eyed, black-haired women had a 
beauty of a fearless character like gypsy women, in 
their m.ovement and expression. But the wives of small 
farmers and miners on piecework look old very soon 
and are puckered and shadowy in the face. Some of 
these middle-aged and old women suggested an early 
and barbarous generation. The eyes were small and 
deep-set, and the face narrowed forward like an animal's; 
which gave the whole a peering expression of suspicion 
and even alarm. The eyes of most human beings are 
causes of bewilderment and dismay if curiously looked at; 
but the strangest I ever saw were in an old Cornish 
woman. They were black and round as a child's, with 
a cold brightness that made them seem not of the 
substance of other eyes, but like a stone. They were 
set in a narrow, bony face of parchment among grey 
hair crisp and disarrayed. I saw them only for a few 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 173 

minutes while I asked a few questions about the way, 
and it was as much as I could do to keep up the con- 
versation, so much did those motionless eyes invite me 
to plunge into an abyss of human personality — such 
intense loneliness and strangeness did they create, since 
they proclaimed shrilly and clearly that beyond a desire 
to be fed and clothed we had nothing in common. Had 
they peered up at me out of a cromlech or hut at Bos- 
porthennis I could not have been more puzzled and 
surprised. 

Men and women were hospitable and ready to smile 
as the Welsh are; and they have an alluring na'ivet^ as 
well as some righteousness. One family was excessively 
virtuous or had a wish to appear so : I do not know which 
alternative to like the less, since it was in a matter of 
game. They rented land on a large estate and had a 
right to the rabbits : the hares were sacred to the great 
landowner. The farmer's wife assured me that one of 
her sons had lately brought in a lame hare and proposed 
to put it out of its pain, but that she had said : " No, 
take it out and let it die outside anywhere. The best 
thing is to be afraid in things of this kind and then you 
won't go wrong." Doing much the same kind or quan- 
tity of manual work as their husbands and being much 
out of doors, the women's manners were confident and 
free. Their speech was as a rule fluent and grammatical 
and clearly delivered, with less accent than in any part 
of England. Coming into a mining village one day and 
wanting tea, I asked a woman who was drawing water 
from a farmyard well if she could make me some, think- 
ing she was the farmer's wife. She said she would, but 
took me to one of a small row of cottages over the way, 



174 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

where her husband was half-naked in the midst of his 
Saturday wash. Taking no notice of him she led me into 
the sitting-room and, with a huge loaf held like a violin, 
began buttering and cutting thin slices while she talked 
to me, to the little children and to her husband, from the 
adjacent kitchen. She was tall, straight as a pillar, black- 
haired, with clear untanned but slightly swarthy skin, 
black eyes, kindly gleaming cheeks and red lips smiling 
above her broad breast and hips. Her clothes were black 
but in rags that hardly clung to her shoulders and waist. 
She was barely five and twenty, but had six young children 
about her, one in a cradle by the hearth and another still 
crawling at her feet. Her only embarrassment came 
when I asked to pay for my tea — she began adding up the 
cost, a pennyworth of bread and butter, a halfpennyworth 
of tea, etc. ! The kitchen consisted simply of a large 
grate and baking oven, plain tables and chairs on a flagged 
floor. But the sitting-room was a museum — with photo- 
graphs of a volunteer corps, of friends and relations on 
the wall over the fire; foxgloves in jam-pots surrounded 
by green crinkled paper in the fireplace; on the mantel- 
piece, cheap little vases and scraps of ore and more photo- 
graphs. On the walls were three pictures : one of two 
well-dressed children being timidly inspected by fallow 
deer; another of a grandmother showing a book to a child 
whose attention is diverted by the frolics of two kittens 
at her side; and a third of Jesus, bleeding and crowned 
with thorns, high on a cross over a marble city beneath a 
romantic forest ridge, behind which was the conflagration 
of a crimson sunset. 

Other sitting-rooms were similarly adorned, with the 
addition of a picture of John Wesley as a child escaping 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 175 

from the window of a burning house, with many anxious 
men holding up their hands from below. The smell of 
flowers and of sun-warmed furniture and old upholstery 
mingles in such rooms. 

But the kitchens are often as charming as in Wales. I 
remember one especially near Carn Galver. The farm- 
house was of whitened stone under a steep thatch. In 
front were fuchsia trees in the corner of a stony yard; to 
one side, the haystacks and piles of furze and bracken 
and peat. The farmer's wife was carrying peat on an 
iron hook into the kitchen and I followed her. A pan 
of yellow scalded cream stood inside. The fireplace was 
a little room in itself, with seats at each side and a little 
fire of wood and three upright turves in one corner of 
the great stone hearth : over the fire the kettle boiled. 
Horse ornaments of polished brass surmounted the fire- 
place. The wallpaper had given up its pattern long since 
to a smoky uneven gold; nailed to it were calendars and 
lists of fairs and sales; against it were two small tables, 
one to support a Bible and an almanac, the other spread 
with a w^hite cloth on which was a plate and a bowl of 
cream. Behind the door and between it and the fire was 
a high-backed settle of dark wood, with elbow-rests. The 
floor was flagged and sanded. The light came in through 
a little square window on to the Bible by the opposite 
wall, and through the open door on to the figure of the 
housewife, a woman of forty. A delicate white face 
shone beneath a broad untrimmed straw hat that was tied 
tightly under her chin so as to hide her ears and most of 
her black hair. Her black skirt was kilted up behind; a 
white apron contrasted with black shoes, black stockings 
and black clothes. At first her face was hardly seen, 



176 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

not only because but a part of it emerged from the shell 
of her hat, but because the spirit that emanated from it 
was more than the colour and features and so much in 
harmony with the sea and crag and moor and dolmen 
of her land. It is evading an insuperable difficulty to say 
that this spirit was not so much human as fay. It was 
the spirit of which her milky complexion, the bright 
black eyes, white teeth and fine red lips of her readily 
smiling and naively watching fearless face, her slender 
form, her light and rapid movements upon small feet, 
were only the more obvious expressions. Her spirit 
danced before her — not quite visibly, not quite audibly — 
as she moved or spoke or merely smiled; if it could have 
been seen it would have been a little singing white flame 
changing to blue and crimson in its perpetual flickering. 
It was a spirit of laughter, of laughter unquenchable since 
the beginning of time, of laughter in spite of and because 
of all things, the laughter of life like a jewel in desolate 
places. It was a spirit most ancient and yet childlike, 
birdlike : it belonged to a world outside any which other 
human beings ever seemed to touch, but the laughter in 
it made it friendly, for it was far deeper than humour, it 
was gaiety of heart. Her goings to and fro on those light 
feet had the grace, quickness, suddenness of a bird, of a 
wren that slips from twig to twig and jets out its needle 
of song, of a moorhen flicking its tail and hooting sharply. 
Her laugh startled and delighted like the laugh of the 
woodpecker as it leaps across the glades — like the whistling 
of birds up amongst the dark clouds and the moon. But 
most of all she called to mind the meadow pipit of her 
own crags, that rises from green ledges out over the sea 
and then, falling slantwise with body curved like a 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 177 

crescent, utters his passionate pulsating song, so rapid 
and passionate that it seems impossible and unfit that it 
should end except in death, yet suddenly ceasing as it 
lands again upon the samphire or the thrift. The spirit 
was as quicksilver in the corners of her eyes, as quicksilver 
in the heart. Such a maid she must have been as the 
bard vv^ould have thought to send out the thrush to woo 
for him, when he heard the bird of ermine breast singing 
from the new-leaved hazel at dawn, on the edge of a 
brook among the steep woods — singing artfully with a 
voice like a silver bell — solemnly, too, so as to seem to 
be performing a sacrifice — and amorously, bringing balm 
to lovers' hearts and inspiring the bard to send by him a 
message to the sun of all maidens that she, white as the 
snow of the first winter night, should come out to the 
green woods to him. She had lived for generations on 
the moor, for generations upon generations, and this was 
what she had gained from heather and furze and crag and 
seawind and sunshine tempered by no trees — inextinguish- 
able laughter. But she was inarticulate. She milked the 
cows, made butter, baked bread, kept the peat fire burning 
and tended her children. When she talked, I asked for 
more cream. Perhaps after several more generations have 
passed she will be a poet and astonish the world with a 
moorland laughter of words that endure. 

Everything in that house was old or smooth and bright 
with use, and the hollowed threshold of the doorway in 
the sun put me in mind of a hundred old things and of 
their goodliness to mortal eyes — the wrecked ship's ribs, 
their bolt-holes rusty, that stand among nettles as gate- 
posts — the worn dark stones that rock to the tread among 

N 



1 78 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

the ripples of an umbrageous ford — many a polished stile 
and gate — the group of rigid but still gracious bowery- 
thorns dotted with crimson haws in the middle of a 
meadow, their boles and lower branches rubbed hard and 
smooth and ruddy like iron by the cows — the ash staff 
beginning to bend like its master, the old man upon the 
roads who once wore scarlet and wound the horn for Mr. 

's hounds. Odd it is how old use sanctifies a little 

thing. There was once a hut where a good man, but a 
poor and a weak and unwise, stayed all one fair summer 
and talked of English roads — he was a lord of the roads, 
at least of South Country roads — and of ships, which 
he knew. Now on the first night of his stay, needing 
a candlestick he kicked ofi the top of a pointed wooden 
paling, so as to make a five-angled piece on which he 
stuck the candle in its own grease. All through his stay 
he used the candlestick, when he read the Divina Com- 
tnedia and Pantagruel and Henry Brocken and recollected 
airs of Italy and Spain, amidst the sound of nightjars and 
two leafy streams : the light flickered out as he mused 
about the open sea, calm but boundless and without 
known harbour, on which he was drifting cheerfully, 
regardless of Time, pied with nights and days. The hut 
was burnt and the man went — to drown a little after- 
wards with a hundred unlike himself in the sea — but 
among nettle and dock the candlestick was picked up 
safe. It had broken off straight and the simple shape 
was pleasant; it was dark with age; along with the mound 
and little pillar of wax remaining it had the shape of a 
natural thing; and it was his. 

Animate as well as inanimate things are open to this 
sanctification by age or use. I am not here thinking of 



HISTORY AND THE PARISH 179 

ceremonious use — for which I have small natural respect, 
so that I have been denied the power of appreciating 
either a great religious pomp or the dancing of Made- 
moiselle Genee. But some men, particularly sailors and 
field labourers, but also navvies and others who work 
heavily with their hands, have this glory of use. Their 
faces, their clothes, their natures all appear to act and 
speak harmoniously, so that they cause a strong impression 
of personality which is to be deeply enjoyed in a world 
of masks, especially of black clerical masks. One of 
the best examples of this kind was a gamekeeper who 
daily preceded me by twenty or thirty yards in a morning 
walk up through a steep wood of beeches. He was a short, 
stiffly-built and stoutish man who wore a cap, thick skirted 
coat and breeches, leather gaiters and heavy boots, all 
patched and stained, all of nearly the same colour as his 
lightish-brown hair and weathered skin, but not so dark 
as the gun over his shoulder. The shades of this colour 
were countless and made up like the colour of a field 
of ripe wheat, which they would have resembled had they 
not been liberally dusted all over, just as his brown beard 
was grizzled. He went slowly up, swinging slightly at 
the shoulders and always smoking a pipe of strong shag 
tobacco of which the fumes hovered in the moist air with 
inexpressible sweetness and a good brown savour : if I may 
say so, the fit emanation of the brown woodland man 
who, when he stood still, looked like the stump of a tree. 



N 2 



CHAPTER X 

SUMMER SUSSEX 

Far up on the Downs the air of day and night is 
flavoured by honeysuckle and new hay. It is good to 
walk, it is good to lie still; the rain is good and so is the 
sun; and whether the windy or the quiet air be the better 
let us leave to a December judgment to decide. One day 
the rain falls and there is no wind, and all the movement 
is in the chaos of the dark sky; and thus is made the 
celestial fairness of an earth that is brighter than the 
heavens; for the green and lilac of the grasses and the 
yellow of the goat's-beard flowers glow, and the ripening 
corn is airy light. But next day the sun is early hot. 
The wet hay steams and is sweet. The beams pour into 
a southward coombe of the hills and the dense yew is 
warm as a fruit- wall, so that the utmost of fragrance is 
extracted from the marjoram and thyme and fanned by the 
coming and going of butterflies; and in contrast with this 
gold and purple heat on flower and wing, through the 
blue sky and along the hill-top moist clouds are trooping, 
of the grey colour of melting snow. The great shadows 
of the clouds brood long over the hay, and in the darker 
hollows the wind rustles the dripping thickets until mid- 
day. On another morning after night rain the blue sky 
is rippled and crimped with high, thin white clouds by 
several opposing breezes. Vast forces seem but now to 
have ceased their feud. The battle is over, and there are 
all the signs of it plain to be seen; but they have laid 
down their arms, and peace is broad and white in the sky, 

1 80 



SUMMER i8i 

but of many colours on the earth — for there is blue of 
harebell and purple of rose-bay among the bracken and 
popping gorse, and heather and foxglove are purple above 
the sand, and the mint is hoary lilac, the meadow-sweet 
is foam, there is rose of willow-herb and yellow of flea- 
bane at the edge of the water, and purple of gentian and 
cistus yellow on the Downs, and infinite greens in those 
little dense Edens which nettle and cow-parsnip and 
bramble and elder make every summer on the banks of 
the deep lanes. A thousand swifts wheel as if in a fierce 
wind over the highest places of the hills, over the great 
seaward-looking camp and its three graves and antique 
thorns, down to the chestnuts that stand about the rick- 
yards in the cornland below. 

These are the hours that seem to entice and entrap the 
airy inhabitants of some land beyond the cloud moun- 
tains that rise farther than the farthest of downs. Legend 
has it that long ago strange children were caught upon the 
earth, and being asked how they had come there, they 
said that one day as they were herding their sheep in a 
far country they chanced on a cave; and within they 
heard music as of heavenly bells, which lured them on 
and on through the corridors of that cave until they 
reached our earth; and here their eyes, used only to a 
twilight between a sun that had set for ever and a night 
that had never fallen, were dazed by the August glow, 
and lying bemused they were caught before they could 
find the earthly entrance to their cave. Small wonder 
would this adventure be from a region no matter how 
blessed, when the earth is wearing the best white wild 
roses or when August is at its height. 

The last hay-waggon has hardly rolled between the 



1 82 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

elms before the reaper and the reaping-machines begin 
to work. The oats and wheat are in tents over all the 
land. Then, then it is hard not to walk over the brown 
in the green of August grass. There is a roving spirit 
everywhere. The very tents of the corn suggest a 
bivouac. The white clouds coming up out of the yellow 
corn and journeying over the blue have set their faces 
to some goal. The traveller's-joy is tangled over the 
hazels and over the faces of the small chalk-pits. The 
white beam and the poplar and the sycarriore fluttering 
show the silver sides of their leaves and rustle farewells. 
The perfect road that goes without hedges under elms 
and through the corn says, " Leave all and follow." How 
the bridges overleap the streams at one leap, or at three, 
in arches like those of running hounds! The far-scat- 
tered, placid sunsets pave the feet of the spirit with many 
a road to joy; the huge, vacant halls of dawn give a sense 
of godlike power. 

But it is hard to make anything like a truce between 
these two incompatible desires, the one for going on and 
on over the earth, the other that would settle for ever, 
in one place as in a grave and have nothing to do with 
change. Suppose a man to receive notice of death, it 
would be hard to decide whether to walk or sail until the 
end, seeing no man, or none but strangers; or to sit — 
alone — and by thinking or not thinking to make the 
change to come as little as is permitted. The two desires 
will often painfully alternate. Even on these harvest days 
there is a temptation to take root for ever in some corner 
of a field or on some hill from which the world and the 
clouds can be seen at a distance. For the wheat is as 
red as the most red sand, and up above it tower the elms, 



SUMMER 183 

dark prophets persuading to silence and a stillness like their 
own. Away on the lesser Downs the fields of pale oats 
are liquid within their border of dark woods; they also 
propose deep draughts of oblivion and rest. Then, again, 
there is the field — the many fields — where a regiment of 
shocks of oats are ranked under the white moon between 
rows of elms on the level Sussex land not far from the 
sea. The contrast of the airy matter underfoot and the 
thin moon overhead, with the massy dark trees, as it were, 
suspended between; the numbers and the order of the 
sheaves; their inviolability, though protected but by the 
gateway through which they are seen — all satisfy the 
soul as they can never satisfy the frame. Then there are 
the mists before heat which make us think of autumn or 
not, according to our tempers. All night the aspens have 
been shivering and the owls exulting under a clear full 
moon and above the silver of a great dew. You climb 
the steep chalk slope, through the privet and dog- wood 
coppice; among the scattered junipers — in this thick 
haze as in darkness they group themselves so as to make 
fantastic likenesses of mounted men, animals, monsters; 
over the dead earth In the shade of the broad yews, and 
thence suddenly under lightsome sprays of guelder-rose 
and their cherry-coloured berries; over the tufted turf; 
and then through the massed beeches, cold and dark as a 
church and silent; and so out to the level waste cornland 
at the top, to the flints and the clay. There a myriad 
oriflammes of ragwort are borne up on tall stems of equal 
height, straight and motionless, and near at hand quite 
clear, but farther away forming a green mist until, 
farther yet, all but the flowery surface is invisible, and 
that is but a glow. The stillness of the green and golden 



1 84 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

multitudes under the grey mist, perfectly still though a 
wind flutters the high tops of the beech, has an immortal 
beauty, and that they should ever change does not enter 
the mind which is thus for the moment lured happily into 
a strange confidence and ease. But the sun gains power 
in the south-east. It changes the mist into a fleeting 
garment, not of cold or of warm grey, but of diaphanous 
gold. There is a sea-like moan of wind in the half-visible 
trees, a wavering of the mist to and fro until it is dis- 
persed far and wide as part of the very light, of the blue 
shade, of the colour of cloud and wood and down. As 
the mist is unwoven the ghostly moon is disclosed, and a 
bank of dead white clouds where the Downs should be. 
Under the very eye of the veiled sun a golden light and 
warmth begins to nestle among the mounds of foliage at 
the surface of the low woods. The beeches close by have 
got a new voice in their crisp, cool leaves, of which every 
one is doing something — cool, though the air itself is 
warm. Wood-pigeons coo. The white cloud-bank gives 
way to an immeasurable half-moon of Downs, some bare, 
some saddle-backed with woods, and far away and below, 
out of the ocean of countless trees in the southern veil, a 
spire. It is a spire which at this hour is doubtless moving 
a thousand men with a thousand thoughts and hopes and 
memories of men and causes, but moves me with the 
thought alone that just a hundred years ago was buried 
underneath it a child, a little child whose mother's mother 
was at the pains to inscribe a tablet saying to all who pass 
by that he was once "an amiable and most endearing 
child." 

And what nights there are on the hills. The ash- 
sprays break up the low full moon into a flower of many 



SUMMER 185 

sparks. The Downs are heaved up into the h'ghted sky 
— surely they heave in their tranquiUity as with a slowly 
taken breath. The moon is half-way up the sky and 
exactly over the centre of the long curve of Downs; just 
above them lies a long terrace of white cloud, and at their 
feet gleams a broad pond, the rest of the valley being 
utterly dark and indistinguishable, save a few scattered 
lamps and one near meadow that catches the moonlight 
so as to be transmuted to a lake. But every rainy leaf 
upon the hill is brighter than any of the few stars above, 
and from many leaves and blades hang drops as large and 
bright as the glowworms in their recesses. Larger by a 
little, but not brighter, are the threes and fours of lights 
at windows in the valley. The wind has fallen, but a 
mile of woods unlading the rain from their leaves make 
a sound of wind, while each separate drop can be heard 
from the nearest branches, a noise of rapt content, as if 
they were telling over again the kisses of the shower. 
The air itself is heavy as mead with the scent of yew and 
juniper and thyme. 



CHAPTER XI 

HAMPSHIRE AN UMBRELLA MAN 

A BEGGAR is a rich man on some of these August days, 
especially one I know, whom first I met some Augusts 
ago now. A fine Sunday afternoon had sprinkled the 
quiet and thinly-peopled land with black-dressed men and 
white-dressed women, the older married couples and their 
trains of children keeping chiefly to the roads and most 
straightforward paths, the younger, with one child or 
none, choosing rather the green lanes, while the lovers 
and the boys found out tall hedge-sides and the footpaths 
across which more than one year's growth of hazel had 
spread, so that the shortest of the maids must stoop. 
Many showers following a dry season made miles of the 
country as clean and fragrant as a garden. Honeysuckle 
and privet were in every hedge with flowers that bring a 
thrill of summer bridals on their scent. The brisk wind 
was thymy from the Downs. The ragwort was in its 
glory; it rose tall as a man in one straight leap of dark- 
foliaged stem, and then crowned itself in the boldest and 
most splendid yellows derived from a dark golden disc 
and almost lemon rays; it was as if Apollo had come 
down to keep the flocks of a farmer on these chalk hills 
and his pomp had followed him out of the sky. A few 
birds still sang; one lark now and then, a cirl-bunting 
among the topmost haws of a thorn, chiffchaffs in the 
bittersweet and hazel of the little copses. 

There was apparently comfort, abundance and quiet 
1 86 



AN UMBRELLA MAN 187 

everywhere. They were seen in the rfckyards where 
grand haystacks, newly thatched, stood around ancient 
walnut-trees. Even the beeches had a decorous look in 
their smooth boles and perfect lavish foliage. The little 
patches of flowery turf by the roadside and at corners 
were brighter and warmer than ever, as the black bees 
and the tawny skipper butterflies flew from bloom to 
bloom of the crimson knapweed. Amplest and most 
unctuous of all in their expression of the ceremonious 
leisure of the day and the maturity of the season were 
the cart-horses. They leaned their large heads benignly 
over the rails or gates; their roan or chestnut flanks were 
firm and polished; manes, tails and fetlocks spotless; now 
and then they lifted up their feet and pressed their toes 
into the ground, showing their enormous shoes that shone 
and were of girth sufficient to make a girdle for the 
lightest of the maids passing by. 

Sunday with not too strict a rod of black and white 
ruled the land and made it all but tedious except in the 
longest of the green lanes, which dipped steeply under 
oaks to a bfook muffled in leaves and rose steeply again, 
a track so wet in spring — and full of the modest golden 
green of saxifrage flowers — that only the hottest Sunday 
ever saw it disturbed except by carter and horses. In a 
hundred yards the oak-hidden windings gave the traveller 
a feeling of reclusion as if he were coiled in a spool; very 
soon a feeling of possession ripened into one of armed 
tyranny if another's steps clattered on the stones above. 
Sometimes in a goodly garden a straight alley of shadows 
leads away from the bright frequented borders to — we 
know not quite whither, and perhaps, too much delighted 
with half-sad reverie, never learn, smother even the 



1 88 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

guesses of fancy, lest they should bring some old un- 
pleasant truth in their train; but if the fancy will thread 
the alley and pass the last of the shadows it is into some 
such lane as this that it would gladly emerge, to come at 
last upon the pure wild. It seemed that I had come 
upon the pure wild in this lane, for in a bay of turf 
alongside the track, just large enough for a hut and 
thickly sheltered by an oak, though the south-west sun 
crept in, was a camp. Under the oak and at the edge 
of the tangled bramble and brier and bracken was a low 
purple light from those woodside flowers, self-heal and 
wood-betony. A perambulator with a cabbage in it stood 
at one corner; leaning against it was an ebony-handled 
umbrella and two or three umbrella-frames; underneath 
it an old postman's bag containing a hammer and other 
tools. Close by stood half a loaf on a newspaper, several 
bottles of bright water, a black pot of potatoes ready for 
boiling, a tin of water steaming against a small fire of 
hazel twigs. Out on the sunny grass two shirts were 
drying. In the midst was the proprietor, his name re- 
vealed in fresh chalk on the side of his perambulator: 
"John Clark, Hampshire." 

He had spent his last pence on potatoes and had 
been given the cabbage. No one would give him work 
on a Sunday. He had no home, no relations. Being deaf, 
he did not look for company. So he stood up, to get dry 
and to tlTink, think, think, his hands on his hips, while 
he puffed at an empty pipe. During his meditation a 
snail had crawled half-way up his trousers, and was now 
all but down again. He was of middle height and build, 
the crookedest of men, yet upright, like a branch of 
oak which comes straight with all its twistings. His head 



AN UMBRELLA MAN 189 

was small and round, almost covered by bristly grey hair 
like lichen, through which peered quiet blue eyes; 
the face was irregular, almost shapeless, like dough being 
kneaded, worn by travel, passion, pain, and not a few 
blows; where the skin was visible at all through the 
hair it was like red sandstone; his teeth were white and 
strong and short like an old dog's. His rough neck 
descended into a striped half-open shirt, to which was 
added a loose black waistcoat divided into thin perpen- 
dicular stripes by ribs of faded gold; his trousers, loose 
and patched and short, approached the colour of a hen 
pheasant; his bare feet were partly hidden by old black 
boots. His voice was hoarse and, for one of his enduring 
look, surprisingly small, and produced with an effort and 
a slight jerk of the head. 

He was a Sussex man, born in the year 1831, on June 
the twenty-first (it seemed a foppery in him to remember 
the day, and it was impossible to imagine with what 
ceremony he had remembered it year by year, during half 
a century or near it, on the roads of Sussex, Kent, Surrey 
and Hampshire). His mother was a Wild — there were 
several of them buried not far away under the carved 
double-headed tombstones by the old church with the 
lancet windows and the four yews. He was a labourer's 
son, and he had already had a long life of hoeing and 
reaping and fagging when he enlisted at Chatham. He 
had kept his musket bright, slept hard and wet, and 
starved on thirteenpence a day, moving from camp to 
camp every two years. He had lost his youth in battle, 
for a bullet went through his knee; he lay four months 
in hospital, and they took eighteen pieces of bone out of 
his wound — he was still indignant because he was 



iQO THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

described as only " slightly wounded " when he was dis- 
charged after a " short service " of thirteen years. He 
showed his gnarled knee to explain his crookedness. 
Little he could tell of the battle except the sobbing of 
the soldier next to him — "a London chap from Haggers- 
ton way. Lord! he called for his mother and his God 
and me to save him, and the noise he made was worse 
than the firing and the groaning of the horses, and I was 
just thinking how I could stop his mouth for him when a 
bullet hits me, and down I goes like a baby." 

He had been on the road forty years. For a short time 
after his discharge he worked on the land and lived in a 
cottage with his wife and one child. The church bells 
were beginning to ring, and I asked him if he was going 
to church. At first he said nothing, but looked down at 
his striped waistcoat and patched trousers; then, with a 
quick violent gesture of scorn, he lifted up his head and 
even threw it back before he spoke. " Besides," he said, 

"I remember how it was my little girl died My 

little girl, says I, but she would have been a big hand- 
some woman now, forty-eight years old on the first of 
May that is gone. She was lying in bed with a little bit 
of a cough, and she was gone as white as a lily, and I 
went in to her when I came home from reaping. I saw 
she looked bad and quiet-like — like a fish in a hedge — and 
something came over me, and I caught hold of both her 
hands in both of mine and held them tight, and put my 
head close up to hers and said, * Now look here, Polly, 
youVe got to get well. Your mother and me can't stand 
losing you. And you aren't meant to die; such a one 
as you be for a lark.' And I squeezed her little hands, and 
all my nature seemed to rise up and try to make her get 



AN UMBRELLA MAN 191 

well. Polly she looked whiter than ever and afraid; 
I suppose I was a bit rough and dirty and sunburnt, for 
'twas a hot harvest and 'twas the end of the second week 
of it, and I was that fierce I felt I ought to have had my 
way. ... All that night I thought I had done a wrong 
thing trying to keep her from dying that way, and I tell 
you I cried in case I had done any harm by it. . . . That 
very night she died without our knowing it. She was a 
bonny maid, that fond of flowers. The night she was 
taken ill she was coming home with me from the Thirteen 
Acre, where I'd been hoeing the mangolds, and she had 
picked a rose for her mother. All of a sudden she looks 
at it and says, ' It's gone, it's broke, it's gone, it's gone, 
gone, gone,' and she kept on, * It's broke, it's gone, it's 
gone,' and when she got home she ran up to her mother, 
crying, * The wild rose is broke, mother; broke, gone, 
gone,' she says, just like that," said the old man, in a 
high finical voice more like that of a bird than a child. . . . 
"Then my old woman — well, she was only a bit of 
a wench too; seventeen when we were married — she 
took ill and died within a week after. . . . There was a 
purpose in it. ... It was then the end of harvest. I 
spent all my wages down at the Fighting Cocks, and 
then I set out to walk to Mildenhall in Wiltshire, where 
my wife came from. On the way I met a chap I had 
quarrelled with in Egypt, and he says to me, * Hullo, 
Scrammy-handed Jack,' with a sort of look, and I, not 
thinking what I did, I set about him, and before I knew it 
he was lying there as might be dead, and I went and gave 
myself up, and I don't mind saying that I wished I might 
be hanged for it. However, I did six months. That was 
how I came to be in the umbrella line. I took up with 



192 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

a chap who did a bit of tinkering and umbrella-mending 
and grinding in the roving way, and a job of hoeing or 
mowing now and then. He died not so very long after 
in the year of the siege of Paris, and I have been alone 
ever since. Nor I haven't been to church since, any more 
than a blackbird would go and perch on the shoulder of 
one of those ladies with feathers and wings and a bit of a 
fox in their hats." 

Labourer, soldier, labourer, tinker, umbrella man, he 
had always wandered, and knew the South Country 
between Fordingbridge and Dover as a man knows his 
garden. Every village, almost every farmhouse, especially 
if there were hops on the land, he knew, and could see 
with his blue eyes as he remembered them and spoke their 
names. I never met a man who knew England as he 
did. As he talked of places his eyes were alight and 
turned in their direction, and his arm stretched out to 
point, moving as he went through his itinerary, so that 
verily, wherever he was, he seemed to carry in his head 
the relative positions of all the other places where he had 
laboured and drunk and lit his solitary fire. " Was you 

ever at H ? " he said, pointing to the Downs, through 

which he seemed to see H itself. " General , that 

commanded us, lived there. He died there three years 
ago at the age of eighty-eight, and till he died I was 
always sure of a half-crown if I called there on a Christ- 
mas Eve, as I generally managed to do." Of any place 
mentioned he could presently remember something signifi- 
cant — the words of a farmer, a song, a signboard, a won- 
derful crop, the good ale — the fact that forty-nine years 
ago the squire used to go to church in a smock frock. 
All the time his face was moved with free and broad 



AN UMBRELLA MAN " 193 

expressions as he thought and remembered, like an 
animal's face. Living alone and never having to fit him- 
self into human society, he had not learnt to keep his face 
in a vice. He was returning — if the grave was not too 
near at the age of seventy-seven — to a primeval wildness 
and simplicity. It was a pleasure to see him smoke — to 
note how it eased his chest — to see him spit and be the 
better for it. The outdoor life had brought him 
rheumatism, but a clear brain also and a wild purity, a 
physical cleanliness too, and it was like being with a well- 
kept horse to stand beside him; and this his house was 
full of the scent of the bracken growing under the oaks. 
Earth had not been a kind but a stern mother, like some 
brawny full-bosomed housewife with many children, 
who spends all her long days baking and washing, and 
making clothes, and tending the sick one, and cutting 
bread and pouring out tea, and cuffing one and cuddling 
another and listening to one's tale, and hushing their 
unanimous chatter with a shout or a bang of her enormous 
elbow on the table. The blows of such a one are shrewd, 
but they are not as the sweetness of her nursing voice for 
enduring in the memory of bearded men and many- 
childed women. 

Once or twice again I met him in later summers near 
the same place. The last time he had been in the in- 
firmary, and was much older. His fire was under the 
dense shelf of a spruce bough in a green deserted road 
worn deep in the chalk, blocked at both ends, and trodden 
by few mortal feet. Only a few yards away, under 
another spruce, lay a most ancient sheep who had appar- 
ently been turned into the lane to browse at peace. She 
was lame in one leg, and often fed as she knelt. Her 
o 



194 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

head was dark grey and wise, her eyes pearly green and 
iridescent with an oblong pupil of blackish-blue, quiet, yet 
full of fear; her wool was dense but short and of a cinder 
grey; her dark horny feet were overgrown from lack of 
use. She would not budge even when a dog sniffed at 
her, but only bowed her head and threatened vainly to 
butt. She was huge and heavy and content, though 
always all alone. As she lay there, her wool glistening 
with rain, I had often wondered what those eyes were 
aware of, what part she played in the summer harmonies 
of night and day, the full night heavens and cloudless 
noon, storm and dawn, and the long moist heat of dewy 
mornings. She was now shorn, and the old man watched 
her as he drank the liquor in which a cabbage and a piece 
of bacon had been boiled. " I often thinks," he said, 
'* that I be something like that sheep . . . ' slightly 
wounded ' . . . but not ' short service ' now . . . haha ! 
. . . left alone in this here lane to browse a bit while 
the weather's fine and folks are kind. . . . But I don't 
know but what she is better off. Look there," he said, 
pointing to a wound which the shearer had made in one of 
her nipples, where flies clustered like a hideous flower of 
crape, " I have been spending this hour and more flicking 
the flies off her. . . . Nobody won't do that for me — 
unless I come in for five shillings a week Old Age Pen- 
sion. But I reckon that won't be for a roving body like 
me without a letter-box." In the neighbouring field a 
cart-horse shook herself with a noise of far-off thunder 
and laughed shrilly and threw up her heels and raced along 
the hedge. A bee could be seen going in and put of the 
transparent white flowers of convolvulus. The horse had 
her youth and strength and a workless day before her; the 



AN UMBRELLA MAN 195 

bee its business, in which was its life, among sunbeams 
and flowers; and they were glad. The old man smacked 
his lips as he drained the salty broth, tried three times to 
light his empty pipe and then knocked out the ashes and 
spat vigorously, and took a turn up the lane alone in the 
scent of the bracken. 



o 2 



CHAPTER XII 

CHILDREN OF EARTH — HAMPSHIRE AND SUSSEX 

At the end of the lane, at the head of one of the 
beechen chalky coombes, just where the beeches cease 
and the flinty clay begins, stands a thatched cottage under 
five tall ash-trees. A grassy lane runs by, but on three 
sides the place is surrounded by huge naked concave 
sweeps of grey ploughland which take the February 
sunshine and cloud shadow as delicately as beaten silver. 
The walls are of grey-white soft stone, but only a little 
of them is visible, because the steep thatch sweeps almost 
to the ground and overhangs the gables, in each of which 
is a small window and under one a door. In hot summer 
or windy winter, if the field happens to be without a crop, 
the earth is of the same colour as the thatch, and the 
cottage looks as if it were the work — like a mole-hill — 
of some creature that has worked underground and risen 
up just there and rested, peering out of the two dark 
windows upon the world. It is impossible to find any 
point of view from which any house can be seen along 
with this, except one — the ash-trees, the tall hazels of the 
lane, or the swelling fields hide them away. But the 
pewits loop their flight every spring over and round about 
the cottage, and the dark eyes under the thatch can 
always see a hare, and often half-a-dozen. Whether the 
ashes are purple in spring, yellow in autumn or grey in 
winter, whether the surrounding fields are bare, or green 
with turnips, or yellow with charlock, or empurpled gold 
with ripe wheat, the cottage is always the same stubborn, 

196 



CHILDREN OF EARTH 197 

dull, simple mound raised up out of the earth. The 
one other house is not so high; nor has it eyes; nor do 
an old man and a girl and two children go in and out of 
it; it is, in fact, not a house of the living, but of the dead, 
a round tumulus at the edge of the hill. 

The grey mound of the dead and the grey house of the 
living are at their best in the midst of winter and in the 
midst of summer. Standing upon the tumulus in 
the north-west wind, the cottage could he seen huddled 
under the lashing trees. Many a thousand beech-trees 
on the steep slopes below gave out a roar, and it was a 
majestic position to be up there, seeing and feeling that 
the strong wind was scouring the world with a stream 
miles deep and miles wide. Far underneath, two beechen 
promontories with bald white brows projected into the 
vast valley; not really much lower than the hill of the 
tumulus, but seeming so in that more than Amazonian 
stream of air. Beyond these promontories the broad land 
was washed bright and clear. Nearer at hand the thrice 
cleaned traveller's-joy was as silken foam surging upon 
the surface of black yews and olive hazels. The kestrel 
swayed and lunged in his flight. Branches gleamed, hard 
and nervously moving. Rain-pools glittered, and each 
brittle stem and flower of a dead plant, each grass-blade 
and brown lock of beech or oak-leaf, gave out its little 
noise to join the oceanic murmur of the earth. Now 
and then a dead leaf took flight, rose high and went out 
over the valley till it was invisible, never descending, in 
search of the moon. Near the horizon a loose white 
drift went rapidly just over the summits of the highest 
woods; but in the upper air were the finest flowers of the 
wind — hard white flowers of cloud, flowers and mad 



198 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

tresses and heaven-wide drapery of gods, and some small 
and white like traveller's-joy, as if up there also they 
travelled and knew the houseless joy along the undulat- 
ing highway of the deep wind. And the little house 
was as a watch-tower planted in the middle swirl of the 
current that was scouring valley and wood and sky and 
water and, as far as it could, the dull eyes and duller 
brains of men. 

In summer I saw it at the end of one of those days of 
sun and wind and perfectly clear air when the earth 
appears immensely heavy and great and strong — so that 
for a moment it is possible to know the majesty of its 
course in space — and the sheep very light, like mere 
down, as they crawl in a flock over the grass. Swathes 
and wisps of white cloud were strewn over the high blue 
sky as if by haymakers. But the lanes were deep, and for 
miles at a time nearly shut out the sky, and all the day 
the lanes were empty and wholly mine. Here the high 
banks were thickly grown with wild parsnip, and its 
umbels of small yellow-green flow ers, fragrant and a little 
over-sweet, were alive and, as it were, boiling over with 
bees and the sunniest flies. There the hazel was laced with 
white bryony, whose leaves and pale tendrils went hover- 
ing and swimming and floating over the hedge. In one 
place an elder-tree stood out of the hedge, stiff, with few 
branches, and every leaf upon them red as a rose. Wher- 
ever there was a waste strip beside the road the tall 
yellow ragwort grew densely, each of the nearer flowers 
as hard and clear as brass, the farther ones dimly glowing 
and half lost in the green mist of their leaves and the 
haze of the brightness of their multitudes. Where the 
road changed into an unused lane the grass was tall, and 



CHILDREN OF EARTH 199 

under the hazels, yet fully seen, were the wild basil and 
marjoram and centaury and knapweed and wood-betony, 
and over them hung moths of green crimson-spotted silk. 
There, too, were the plants that smell most of the dry 
summer — the white parsleys and the white or rosy cow- 
parsnip, the bedstraws white and yellow, the yellow mug- 
wort. Now and then the hedges gave way and on either 
hand was open turf; sloping steep and rough on one side, 
grooved by ancient paths of men and cattle, dotted by 
thorns, with the freshly flowering traveller's-joy over 
them, ash-trees at the top; on the other side, level, skirted 
by cloudy wych-elms and having at one corner a white 
inn half shadowed by a walnut, and two sycamores and 
cattle below them; and at another, a stately autumnal 
house veiled by the cedars and straight yews on its darkly 
glowing lawn. 

All these things I saw as if they had been my own, 
as if I were going again slowly through old treasures 
long hidden away, so that they were memoried and yet 
unexpected. Nothing was too small to be seen, and 
ascending the chalk hill among the beeches every white 
flint was clear on the sward, each in its different shape — 
many chipped as the most cunning chisel would be proud 
to chip them; one, for example, carved by the loss of 
two exquisitely curved and balanced flakes into the like- 
ness of a moth's expanded upper wings. 

A dark beech alley, paved with the gold and green of 
moss and walled by crumbling chalk, brought me to the 
tumulus. There lay the old house in shadow, its ash 
crests lighted yellow by horizontal beams that caught 
here the summit of a wood, and there the polished grass 
Stems on a rising field. It was the one house, and at that 



200 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

hour it gathered to itself all that can be connected with 
a home. It was alone, but its high cool thatch was full 
of protection and privacy, sufficient against sun or rain 
or wind or frost, yet impregnated with free air and light. 
Its ash-trees communed with the heavens and the setting 
sun. The wheat glowed at its gates. The dark masses 
of the lower woods enhanced by a touch of primeval 
gloom and savagery the welcoming expression of the 
house. Slowly the light died out of the ash-tops and the 
wheat turned to a mist. The wood seemed to creep up 
close and lay its shadows over the house. But, stronger 
than the wood and the oncoming tide of night that 
enveloped it, the spirits of roof and wall and hearth were 
weaving a spell about the house to guard it, so that it 
looked a living, breathing, dreaming thing. Nimble, 
elvish, half-human but wholly kind small spirits I fancied 
them, creeping from corners in stone and thatch and 
rafter, at war with those that dwelt in lonely and dark 
places, that knew not fire and lamp and human voices 
save as invaders. For a little while there was a pause, 
a suspense, a hesitation — Could the small spirits win? — 
Were not the woods older and more mighty? — Was not 
that long black bar of cloud across the cold west some- 
thing sinister, already engulfing the frail white moon ? 
But suddenly, as if the life of the house had found a 
powerful voice, one eye in the nearer gable was lit by 
a small lamp and a figure could be guessed behind it. 
The first Promethean spark of fire stolen from the gods 
was hardly a more signal victory than that at which the 
house and I rejoiced when the white light glimmered 
across the corn. It seemed the birth of light. 



CHILDREN OF EARTH 201 

The man who lives under that roof and was born there 
seventy years ago is like his house. He is short and 
immensely broad, black-haired, with shaved but never 
clean-shaven face creased by a wide mouth and long, 
narrow black eyes — black with a blackness as of cold, 
deep water that had never known the sun but only the 
candle-light of discoverers. His once grey corduroys and 
once white slop are stained and patched to something like 
the colour of the moist, channelled thatch and crumbling 
" clunch " of the stone walls. He wears a soft felt hat 
with hanging broad brim of darker earthy hues; it might 
have been drawn over his face and ears in his emergence 
from his native clay and flint. Only rarely does his eye 
— one eye at a time — gloom out from underneath, always 
accompanied by a smile that slowly puckers the wrinkled 
oak-bark of his stiff cheeks. His fingers, his limbs, his 
face, his silence, suggest crooked oak timber or the 
gnarled stoles of the many times polled ash. It is barely 
credible that he grew out of a child, the son of a woman, 
and not out of the earth itself, like the great flints that 
work upwards and out on to the surface of the fields. 
Doubtless he did, but like many a ruined castle, like his 
own house, he has been worn to a part of the earth itself. 
That house he will never give up except by force, to go 
to workhouse or grave. They want him to go out for a 
few days that it may be made more weather-tight; but 
he fears the chances and prefers a rickety floor and 
draughty wall. He is half cowman, half odd-job man — 
at eight shillings a week — in his last days, mending 
hedges, cleaning ditches, and carrying a sack of wheat 
down the steep hill on a back that cannot be bent any 
farther. Up to his knees in the February ditch, or cutting 



202 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

ash-poles in the copse, he is clearly half converted into 
the element to which he must return. 

When the underwood is for sale it is a pleasure to read 
the notices fixed to the doors of barn and shed, with the 
names of the copses and woods. At Penshurst lately, for 
example, I saw these names — 

Black Hoath Wood. 

Heronry Pond. 

Marlpit Field. 

Tapner's Wood. 

Ashour Farm. 

Sidney's Coppice. 

Weir Field. 

Well Place. 
I was back in Sidney's time, remembering that genial 
poem of Ben Jonson's, " To Penshurst," and especially 
the lines — 

" Thy copse too, named of Gamage, thou hast there, 
That never fails to serve thee season'd deer, 
When thou wouldst feed or exercise thy friends. 
The lower land, that to the river bends. 
Thy sheep, thy bullocks, kine, and calves do feed ; 
The middle grounds thy mares and horses breed. 
Each bank doth yield thee conies ; and the tops 
Fertile of wood. Ashore and Sidney's copps. 
To crown thy open table, doth provide 
The purple pheasant with the speckled side, . . ." 

and so onward to that opulence and ease three centuries 
old— 

" Then hath thy orchard fruit, thy garden flowers. 
Fresh as the air, and new as are the hours. 
The early cherry, with the later plum, 
Fig, grape, and cjuince, each in his time doth come 5 



CHILDREN OF EARTH 203 

The blushing apricot and woolly peach 

Hang on thy walls, that every child may reach. 

And though thy walls be of the country stone, 

They're reared with no man's ruin, no man's groan ; 

There's none, that dwell about them, wish them down ; 

But all come in, the farmer and the clown ; 

And no one empty handed, to salute 

Thy lord and lady, though they have no suit. 

Some bring a capon, some a rural cake, 

Some nuts, some apples ; some that think they make 

The better cheeses, bring them ; or else send 

By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend 

This way to husbands ; and whose baskets bear 

An emblem of themselves, in plum or pear. . . ." 

Almost to such a time as that does the old man carry 
back the thoughts. His old master was the fifth in the 
direct line to work one farm in the vale; he left money in 
his will to pay for new smocks, all of the best linen, to be 
worn by the labourers who should carry him to the grave. 

The old man has three companions under that roof. 
The hand that lit the lamp is his daughter's, the youngest 
by the second wife, whom he married when he was fifty. 
The other two are her children, and she is unmarried. 
She earns no money except by keeping a few fowls and 
bees. When the younger child was born — the old man 
having to go six miles out at midnight for the parish 
doctor — the married women commented : " There's for- 
giveness for the first, but not for the second; no " : for 
the first showed indiscretion, carelessness, youth; the 
second, helplessness. The old man can hardly leave the 
children, and though he is deaf he will, when he is told 
that the baby is crying, go to the room and listen carefully 
for the pleasure of the infant voice. That voice means 
colder winter nights for him and less cheer of meat and 



204 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

ale. But for all young life he has a passion equal to a 
mother's, so he laces up his boots and does not grieve. 
See him in the dim outlying barn with the sick heifer 
which is sure to die. The wet killed several in the open 
field; this one is to die on dry hay. She lies with stiff, 
high-ridged back, patient and motionless, except that her 
ears move now and then like birds — ^they alone seem alive. 
There is a deep blue gleam in her eyes. Her head is 
stretched forward upon the ground. She is alone. 
Through the open door the sunlight falls, and the swal- 
lows fly in and out or hang twittering at the dark beams 
over her head. Twice a day the cowman comes to the 
door and salutes her with deep, slow voice, hearty and 
blithe: "Hoho! Cowslip; how's Cowslip?" He pulls 
away the foul hay from under her and puts in fresh, 
talking now in a high falsetto voice as to a child; he raises 
her head that she may lap the bucket of gruel, still talk- 
ing unintelligible baby talk interlarded with her pretty 
name. She holds up her head for a minute or two, 
heartened by her moist lips and full stomach and that 
friend's voice. He stands in the doorway watching and 
silent now, as her head slowly sinks down, and she sighs 
while her limbs find their position of least pain. "She's 
going to die," he mutters in the deep voice as he goes. 

A very different earth child, an artist, used to live in 
a cottage at the foot of the opposite Downs. The village 
itself, whether you saw it from its own street or from the 
higher land, was wrought into such a rightness of form 
as few other artists than Time ever achieve; it made a 
music to which the hands unconsciously beat time. But 
though apparently complete in itself, it was as part of a 
huge and gentle harmony of sky, down and forest that 



CHILDREN OF EARTH 205 

the village was most fascinating. Like all beautiful things 
in their great moments the whole scene was symbolic, 
not only in the larger sense by expressing in an outward ;> 
and visible way an inward grace, but in the sense that it 
gathered up into itself the meanings which many other 
scenes only partly and in a scattered way expressed. 

Two roads of a serpentining form that was perpetually 
alluring from afar climbed the Down from the village 
and, skirting the forest, ended in the white mountains of 
the moon. At the tail of one of these roads the artist 
lived. His work still further enlarged the harmony of 
sky and down and village. For a short time I used to 
wonder why it was that when I entered his studio the 
harmony was prolonged into something even more huge 
and gentle than seemed to have been designed. How came 
it that he could safely hang his pictures on the wall of 
the Down, as practically they were hung? 

It is not enough to say merely that it was because they 
did not, as some landscapes seem to do, enter into com- 
petition with Nature. The spirit that raised and sculp- 
tured the Downs, that entered the beech and made a 
melody of its silent towering and branching, that kept the 
sky above alive and beautiful with the massiveness of 
mountains and the evanescence of foam, was also in this 
man's fingers. He was a great lover of these things, and 
in his love for them combined the ecstasy of courtship 
with the understanding of marriage. But he loved them 
too well to draw and paint them. He was not of 
those who tear themselves from a mistress to write a 
sonnet on her face. No. He painted the images which . 
they implanted — such was their love of him and his of 
them — in his brain. There many a metamorphosis as 



2o6 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

wonderful as Ovid's was made. The beech-trees mingled 
with the fantasies of the brain and brought forth boles that 
are almost human forms, branches that are thoughts and 
roots that are more than wood. Often, I think, he hardly 
looked at Nature as he walked, except to take a careless 
pleasure in the thymy winds, in the drama of light and 
shade on the woods and hills, in the sound of leaves and 
birds and water. Within him these things lived a new 
life until they reached forms as different from their 
beginnings as we are from Palaeolithic man. They 
attained to that beauty of which, as I have said. Nature 
was so little jealous, by this evolution. Some of his 
pictures of the leaf-dappled branch-work of beeches 
always remind me of the efflorescence of frost on a 
window-pane, and the comparison is not purely fantastic 
but has a real significance. 

And yet the landscapes of this metamorphosis are not, 
as might have been expected, decorations that have lost 
all smell of earth and light of sun and breath of breeze. 
Decorative they certainly are, and I know few pictures 
which are less open to the accusation of being scraps from 
Nature, which it is more impossible to think of extending 
beyond the limits of the frame. But such is the person- 
ality of the artist that all this refinement only made more 
powerful than ever the spirit of the motionless things, 
the trees, the pools, the hills, the clouds. Frankly, there 
is a deep fund of what must narrowly, and for the 
moment only, be called inhumanity in the artist, or he 
^ could not thus have reinforced or intensified the inhuman- 
ity of Nature. Consider, for example, his " Song of the 
Nightingale." Those woods are untrodden woods as 
lonely as the sky. They are made for the nightingale's 



CHILDREN OF EARTH 207 

song to rule in solitude under the crescent moon. No 
lovers walk there. Mortal who enters there must either 
a poet or a madman be. 

Look again at his " Castle in Spain," how it is perched 
up above that might of forest, like a child that has climbed 
whence it can never descend. And the little house at the 
edge of the high, dark wood — in " The Farm under the 
Hill " — is as frail and timid as if it heard the roaring 
of wild beasts, and the little white road winds into the 
darkness as to death. So, too, with the children who 
make a pretence of playing hoops at the edge of just 
such another wood, though mortal has never come out of 
it since the beginning of the world. The ship in the 
" Fall of the Leaf " is subdued to the spirit of autumn 
as is the poet subdued to the immense scenes of " Alastor." 
To introduce an elvish figure, as he has done, in "Will 
o' the Wisp " was an unnecessary aid to the elvishness 
of the scene itself. Indeed, his human or fantastic figures 
seem to be sometimes as much out of place as a Yankee 
at the court of King Arthur, though there are two notable 
exceptions — " The Sower " and " The Weed Burner " — 
both figures towards which idolatry might be excusable, 
so nobly do they represent labour in the field. And even 
in " The Weed Burner " the boy seems bemused by the 
motion and savour of the smoke that curdles up through 
the autumn air. The picture of a forest pool is magical, 
but it repudiates the fairy altogether. Nothing would be 
more out of place here than the kind of sucking harlequin 
or columbine which is commonly foisted upon us as a 
fairy; for here is something more desirable, the very 
forces which begot the fairies upon a different age from 
ours. Even when he draws a house it is, I think, for 



2o8 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

the house's sake, for the sake of whatever soul it has 
acquired, which men cannot take away. Was there ever 
such an inn as " The Wispers " ? The landlord is dead, 
the casks are dry, a rat has h'ttered on the top stair of the 
cellar, and the landlord says — 

" 'Tis late and cold, stir up the fire : 
Sit close, and draw the table nigher ; 
Be merry, and drink wine that's old, 
A hearty medicine 'gainst a cold : 
, Your beds of wanton down the best. 
Where you shall tumble to your rest ; 
I could wish you wenches too. 
But I am dead, and cannot do. 
Call for the best the house may ring. 
Sack, white, and claret let them bring. 
And drink apace, while breath you have ; 
You'll find but cold drink in the grave ; 
Plover, partridge, for your dinner. 
And a capon for the sinner. 
You shall find ready when you're up. 
And your horse shall have his sup : 
Welcome, welcome, shall fly round. 
And I shall smile, though underground." 

I like the inn, but the spider loves it, and his webs bar 
the door against all but ghostly travellers. The barn, 
again, with its doorway opening upon the summer night, 
has a life of its own. The two figures at the door are 
utterly dwarfed by its ancientness, its space, and the 
infinite silence without. 

The picture in which there is most humanity is that of 
a high wall, ruinous and overgrown. The deep gap in it 
is tragical. But even here I am not sure that it is a 
wall that was raised by hand of mason, and as to the 
inhabitants who left it desolate I feel more doubtful stilL 



CHILDREN OF EARTH 209 

I believe ft was built in a dream, long ago lost in some 
victory gained by the forest over men, and quite forgotten 
until this artist thought it w^ould be a happy lair for a 
faun. He has not shown us the faun — I wish he had; 
he ought to know what it was like — but that gap is its 
gateway out from the forest into the dew of the river 
lawns. 

It induces an awful sense of the infinite variety of 
human character to think of the love of earth first in this ^ 
man and then in that cowman old. I wonder tolerance is 
not deeper as well as wider than it is. 



CHAPTER XIII 

AUGUST GOING WEST HAMPSHIRE AND WILTSHIRE 

Rain begins as I set out and mount under the beeches. 
The sky is dark as a ploughed field, but the leaves over- 
head are full of light like precious stones. The rain 
keeps the eyes down so that they see one by one the little 
things of the wayside, the strings of the grey-green and 
of tJie scarlet bryony berries, the stony bark of the young 
ash unveiled by the moving leaves, the million tall straight 
shoots which the strong nature of ash and hazel has soared 
into since the spring. Then follows field after field of 
corn, of sheep among hurdled squares, of mustard in 
flower, of grass, interrupted now and then by the massed 
laurels and rhododendrons and the avenues of monkey 
puzzles that announce the pleasure grounds of the rich. 
It is a high land of too level clay, chiefly blest in that 
it beholds the Downs, their saddles of woodland, and, 
through the deepest passes, the sea and an island rising 
out of it like an iceberg; and that it is traversed by the 
Pilgrims' Way, which gathers to itself Canterbury-bells 
and marjoram under its hazels, and pours traveller's-joy 
cloudily over the ash and brier that overhang the side of 
an old chalk pit, long, straight and even like a wall. Just 
here are many grassy lanes between hazel and blackthorn 
hedges. An old farmhouse with ivied chimneys and ten 
blind windows in front stands bereaved with weedy 
garden, but for miles the air sounds with poultry and 
the building of bungalows in deal and iron for strangers. 

2IO 



GOING WESTWARD 211 

It IS not a stranger that rides by. I think his fathers must 
have been in tliis land when Wolf Hanger was not a 
strange name for the beeches over the hill. He is a tall 
straight man with long narrow face, clear, not too 
irregular features, sallow complexion, black hair and black 
drooping moustache, and flashing eyes as dark as privet 
berries in autumn dews. 

Now it is a woodland country, of broad wooded common 
and low undulating Downs crowned or fringed by woods : 
this IS " Swineherd's County " according to the gypsies. 
Houses are few and stand either well off the road or with 
scarcely a dividing line between their gardens and the 
commons from which they have been filched. Their 
linen and red flannel flap under enormous beeches where 
an old track makes its way betwixt them. The children 
living here, the generations of them who have been bred 
in the little flint house, are children of the woods, their 
minds half made by the majestic but dark and deep-voiced 
trees that stand over them day and night and by the 
echoes — you may hear them summoning the echoes at 
evening out of the glades and see them pause as if dazed 
by the wild reply. Opposite the door is a close untrodden 
tangle of brier and thorn and bramble under oaks where 
the dead leaves of many autumns lie untouched even by 
the wind — so dense is the underwood — that sighs con- 
tinually in the topmost boughs : at the edge nettles with 
translucent leaves waver and nod above mossy banks. 
Not far off is a Woodland Farm, a group of houses and 
barns and sheds built of flint and wood and thatched, 
aloof. A man enters one of the cavernous sheds with a 
pail; a thick, bent, knotty man, with bushy dark hair and 
beard and bright black eyes, a farmer, the son's son of 
p 2 



n 



212 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

one who rebuilt the house when the woods were darker 
and huger still. Life is a dark simple matter for him; 
three-quarters of his living is done for him by the dead; 
merely to look at him is to see a man five generations 
thick, so to speak, and neither Nature nor the trumpery 
modern man can easily disturb a human character of that 
density. As I watch him going to and fro I lose sight 
of everything away from his rude house and the tall 
woods, because they and he are so powerful — he has the 
trees as well as his ancestors at his back — and it is no 
flight of fancy to see him actually cut off from all the 
world except the house and woods, and yet holding his 
own, able to keep his fire burning, his larder full, his 
back covered and his house dry. I feel but a wraith as I 
pass by. I wonder what there is worth knowing that he 
does not know, with his bright eyes, bright long teeth, 
stiff limbs capable of unceasing toil, and that look of 
harmony with day and night. I see him looking on as 
the wounded trooper — two hundred and fifty years, a 
trifle, ago — drains the water just lifted frorri the well; 
look at his gallant face, his delicate ardour as of another 
race, bright dress, restless blue eyes, his helplessness after 
the defeat in a cavalry fight about nothing at all. The 
cornet rides away and the woodland fellow puts all his 
nature into the felling of a beech as into an object worthy 
of cold steel, and as he plies his axe he smiles at the thought 
of that brave, that silly face and sleek hair. He smiles 
to-day as he sees a youth go by with proud looks of 
command, incapable, as he well understands, of command- 
ing anything except perhaps a wife or a groom or a 
regiment of townsmen — yet his landlord. 

Rough grass and scattered thorns and lofty groups of 



GOING WESTWARD 213 

mossy-pedestalled beeches lie on either side of the road, 
and grassy tracks lead to thatched cottages in the woods. 
A grey-clouded silver sky moves overhead. Along the 
road the telegraph wires go humming the one shrill note 
in this great harmony of men and woods and sky. 
Beyond, a broad champaign of corn and grey grass heaves 
from the woodland edge. The road is gay with red 
polished fruit and equally red soft leaves, with darkest 
purple and bronze and wine-red and green berries and 
leaves, and beam foliage still pure green and white. So 
high now are the unkempt hedges that the land is hid and 
only the sky appears above the coloured trees : except at 
a meeting of ways when a triangular patch of turf is 
sacred to burdock, ragwort and thistle and — touching the 
dust of the road — the lowly silverweed; an oak over- 
hangs, yet the little open space admits a vision of the 
elephantine Downs going west in the rain. In a moment 
the world is once again this narrow one of the high- 
hedged lane, where I see and touch with the eye and enjoy 
the shapes of each bole and branch in turn, their bone- 
like shapes, their many colours of the wood itself, 
wrinkled and grooved, or overlaid by pale green mould, 
silver lichen or dark green moss. Each bend in the 
road is different. At one all the leaves are yellow but 
green-veined, the bramble, the hazel, the elder; and there 
is a little chalk pit below, fresh white and overhung by 
yew and the dark purple elder berries, small but distinct : 
at another there is a maple of exquisite small leaves and 
numerous accordingly, a fair-built tree in a lovely atti- 
tude and surmounted by a plume, only a small plume, of 
traveller's-joy. In Swineherd's County they call it 
" Angel's hair." 



214 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

Suddenly there is a village of thatched roofs, phlox in 
the gardens, good spaces of green and of sycamore-trees 
between one house and the next, and a green-weeded 
crystal river pervading all with its flash and sound. The 
anvil rings and the fire glows in the black smithy. The 
wheel-wright's timber leans outside his thatched shed 
against an ancient elder, etherealized by lucent yellow 
leaves. Before the inn a jolly ostler with bow legs and 
purple neck washes the wheels of a cart, ever and anon 
filling his pail from the stream and swishing the bright 
water over the wheels as they spin. A decent white- 
haired old man stands and watches, leaning on his stick 
held almost at arm's length so as to make an archway 
underneath which a spaniel sprawls in the sun. The 
men are all at the corn and he does not know what to do. 
Can he read? asks the ostler, knowing the answer very 
well. No! We all read now, chuckles the ostler as he 
flings a pailful over the wheel. The old man is proud 
at least to have lived into such a notable day : " Yes, 
man reads now almost as well as master — quite as well. 
They used to be dummies, the working class people, yes, 
that they was. You can't tell what will happen now." 
Meantime the ostler fills his pail and the old man having 
too many thoughts to say any more, lays his blackthorn 
on the bench and calls for his glass of fourpenny ale. 

Close by there is an entrance to the more open Downs. 
The uncut hedges are so thick that the lane seems a 
cutting through a wood, and soon it becomes a grassy 
track of great breadth under ash-trees and amidst purple 
dogwood and crimson-hearted traveller's-joy, and finally 
it is a long broad field full of wild carrot and scabious 
through which many paths meander side by side until the 



GOING WESTWARD 215 

last gate gives a view, under oak and hazel sprays, on to 
the green undulations of hill and coombe, their sides 
studded with juniper and thorn, with something of 
oceanic breadth in the whole, as far as the utmost bound, 
leagues away, where a line of small trees stands against 
the sky in the manner of ships. The hedges in this 
downland are low or broken. A few ricks stand at the 
borders of stubble and grass. Sheep munch together in 
square pens. There is no house, and the rain has wiped 
out everything that moved save its own perpendicular 
fringes waving along the hills. This solitude of grey 
and brown is completed by the owner's notice, on a frail 
and tottering post : " Trespassers will be prosecuted with 
the utmost rigour of the law." Towards the farther 
verge compact copses of beech begin to saddle the ridges 
and invade the hollows so as to form cliffy dark sides to 
the friths of pale stubble or turf amongst them. And 
then the green way runs into a Roman road, and in the 
twilight and rain I can see many other narrow ancient 
tracks winding into the white road as straight as a sword, 
losing themselves in it like children in a dragon's mouth. 
The turf alongside is mounded by tumuli; and against 
the hedge a gypsy family pretend to shelter from the 
windy rain; the man stands moody, holding the pony, 
the women crouch with chins upon knees, the children 
laugh and will not be still. They belong to the little 
roads that are dying out : they hate the sword-like shelter- 
less road, the booming cars that go straight to the city in 
the vale below. They are less at home there than the 
swallows that haunt the leeward sides of the sycamores, 
ever rushing up towards the trees and ever beaten back, 
like children playing " I'm the king of the castle," at the 



2i6 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

verge of the city. There, by the inn piano, soldiers and 
their friends and women sing with vague pathos songs 
about "Mother" and "Dear Love" and "Farewell" 
and " Love is all " and " The girls," while the streets 
glitter and gurgle with rain. Just before night the sky 
clears. It is littered with small dark clouds upon rose, 
like rocks on a wild and solitary coast of after-tempest 
calm, and it is infinitely remote and infinitely alluring. 
Those clouds are the Islands of the Blest. Even so allur- 
ing might be this life itself, this world, if I were out of it. 
For a moment I fancy how I might lean and watch it all, 
being dead. For a moment only, since the poverty of 
death is such that we cannot hope from it such a gift of 
contemplation from afar, cannot hope even that once out 
of the world we may turn round and look at it and feel 
that we are not of it any more, nor hope that we shall 
know ourselves to be dead and be satisfied. Rain shrouds 
the islands of the sky : the singers find them in their song. 
In the morning the ground is beautiful with blue light 
from one white-clouded pane of sky that will not be 
hidden by the tumultuous rain. Outside the city the 
new thatch of the ricks shines pale in the sodden land, 
which presently gives way to a great water with leaning 
masts and a majestic shadowy sweep of trees down to the 
flat shore, to level green marsh and bridges crossing the 
streams that are announced by ripples in the sun, by 
swishing sedge, by willows blenching. Beyond is forest 
again. First, scattered cottages and little yellow apples 
beaming pale on crooked trees; then solitudes of heather 
and bracken, traversed and lighted by blue waters, ponds 
and streams among flats of rushes; and beyond, at either 
hand, woods on low and high land endlessly changing 



GOING WESTWARD 217 

from brightness to gloom under windy clouds. The 
roads are yellow, and oaks and beeches hang over them in 
whispering companies. The wind reigns, in the high 
magnificent onset of the clouds, in the surging trees, in 
the wings of rooks and daws, in bowing sedges and cotton 
grass, in quivering heather and grass, in rippling water, in 
wildly flying linen; yet in the open there is a strange 
silence because the roar in my ears as I walk deafens me 
to all sound. 

White ponies graze by dark waters and stir the frag- 
rance of the bog myrtle. The rises of the heathery moor 
are scarred yellow where the gravel is exposed. Some- 
times great beeches, plated with green lichen and grey, 
wave their stiffening foliage overhead; or there is a group 
of old hollies encircled by coeval ivy whose embraces 
make them one, and both seem of stone. Sometimes the 
yellow road runs green-edged among heather and gorse, 
shadowed by pines that shake and plunge in the wind but 
are mute. A white fungus shines damp in the purple 
moor. There are a myriad berried hawthorns here, more 
gorse, more heather and bracken. The tiny pools beneath 
are blown into ripples like a swarming of bees, but the 
infuriate streams cannot trouble the dark water and broad 
lily leaves in their bays. Other pools again are tranquil 
and lucid brown over submerged moss and pennywort 
and fallen leaves, worlds to themselves with a spirit 
indwelling in the pure element. Presently, denser trees 
hold back the wind save in their tempestuous crests, and 
now the road is carpeted with pine needles and nothing 
can be seen or felt but the engulfing sound of wind and 
rain. The pines are interrupted by tall bracken, hollies 
and thorns, by necks of turf and isolated hawthorns 



2i8 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

thereon; and far away the light after rain billows grandly- 
over the mounded forest. Many a golden stream pours 
through the dark trees. Oaks succeed, closing in lich- 
ened multitudes about a grassy-rutted ferny road, but 
suddenly giving way to beeches pallid and huge. One 
lies prone across the road, still green of leaf, having torn 
up a mound of earth and bracken and bramble as large 
as a house in its upheaval. Others have lost great 
branches, and the mossy earth is ploughed by their fall. 
They seem to have fought in the night and to be slumber- 
ing with dreams of battle to come; and their titanic 
passions keep far away the influence of the blue sky and 
silver clouds that laugh out unconcerned after the rain. 

After them birches and birchlings grow out of the 
heather backed by a solid wall of oaks. And again there 
are many beeches over mossy golden turf, and one tree 
of symmetrical rounded foliage makes a circle of shade 
where nothing grows, but all about it a crowd of dwarf 
brackens twinkle and look like listeners at an oracle. 
Beyond, countless pillars of dark pines tower above green 
grass. Then the road forks; a shapely oak, still holding 
up dead arms through clouds of greenery, stands at one 
side; at the other a green road wanders away under 
beeches in stately attitudes and at ceremonious distance 
from one another : straight ahead, open low meadows 
surround a reedy water where coot and moorhen cry to 
each other among willow islets and the reflex of a bright 
and windy heaven. And yet once more the road pierces 
the dense woodland roar, form and colour buried as it 
were in sound, except where a space of smoothest turf 
expands from the road, and out of the crimson berries of 
an old thorn comes the voice of a robin singing persist- 



GOING WESTWARD 219 

ently; and past that, inevitably, is a cottage among the 
beeches. More cottages are set in the moorland that 
rolls to an horizon of ridgy oak away from small green 
meadows behind the cottages. These give way to treeless 
undulations like gigantic long barrows, coloured by sand, 
by burnt gorse and by bracken; farther away a wooded 
hump all dark under threatenings of storm; and farthest 
of all, the Downs, serene and pale. The plough begins 
to invade the forest. The undulations sink to rest in a 
land of corn and cloud, of dark green levels, of windy 
whitened abeles, and a shining flood gilded by a lofty 
western sky of gold and grey. Beside the darkling waters 
couches an old town with many windows looking under 
thatch and tile upon grave streets, ending in a spread of 
the river where great horses wading lift their knees high 
as they splash under a long avenue of aspens and alarm 
the moorhens. Beautiful looks the running river under 
the night's hunting of the clouds and the few bright stars, 
and beautiful again, broad blue, or streaked, or shadowy, 
or glittering, or reed-reflecting, beside a white mill or 
company of willows, under the breezes and pearl of 
dawn; and I wish there were a form for saluting a new 
country's gods and the adhuc ignota . . . flumhia. 

Two roads go northward against the stream; the main 
road straight or in long curves on one side of the river, 
the other on the opposite bank in a string of fragments 
zigzagging east and west and north. These fragments 
connect houses or groups of houses with one another, and 
it looks as if only by accident they had made the whole 
which now connects two towns. Their chief business 
is to serve the wheels and feet of those bound upon 
domestic or hamlet but not urban business. Seen upon 



220 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

the map the road sets out straight for a town far north; 
but in two miles the hospitality of a great house seems to 
draw it aside, then of "The Plough "; emerging again it 
wanders awhile before returning to its northward line; 
and this it does time after time, and as often as it pauses 
a lesser road runs out of it to the great road across the 
river. There are scores of such parallel roads — some- 
times the lesser is in part, or entirely, a footpath — in 
England, and in avoiding the dust, the smell, the noise, 
the insolence of the new traffic, the lesser are an invalu- 
able aid. This one proceeds without rise or fall through 
the green river levels, but looks up to a ridge of white- 
scarred purple moor away from the stream, with oak and 
thatched cottages below the heather. It creeps in and 
out like an old cottage woman at a fair and sees every- 
thing. It sees all the farms and barns. It sees the portly 
brick house and its gardens bounded by high fruit walls 
and its walnut-trees in front, on the bank of a golden 
brook that sings under elms and sallows; the twenty-four 
long white windows, the decent white porch, the large 
lawns, the pond and its waterfowl sounding in the reeds, 
the oaks and acacias, the horse mowing the lawn lazily, 
the dogs barking behind the Elizabethan stables. It sees 
the broad grassy borders — for this is not a road cut by a 
skimping tailor — and the woods of oak and ash and hazel 
which the squirrel owns, chiding, clucking and angrily 
flirting his tail at those who would like to share his nuts. 
At every crossing road these grassy borders, which are in 
places as broad as meadows so that cattle graze under 
their elms, spread out into a green; and round about are 
yellow thatched cottages with gardens full of scarlet 
bean flowers and yellow dahlias; and a pond reflects the 



GOING WESTWARD 221 

blue and white sky, wagtails flutter at the edge and geese 
launch themselves as if for a voyage. The only sound 
upon the road is made by the baker's cart carrying a 
fragrant load. 

After ten miles the road crosses the river and wanders 
even farther from the highway. Here there are more 
woods of hazel and oak, and borders where sloe and 
blackberry shine, polished by rain, among herbage of 
yellow ragwort and flea-bane, purple knapweed, yellow- 
ing leaves. The gateways show steep meadows between 
the woods. One shows two lovers of sixteen years old 
gathering nuts in the warm sun, the silence, the solitude. 
The boy bends down and she steps quickly and carelessly 
upon his back to reach a cluster of six, and then descend- 
ing looks away for a little while and turns her left cheek 
to him, softly smiling wordless things to herself, so that 
her lover could not but lean forward and kiss her golden 
skin where it is most beautiful beneath her ear and her 
looped black hair. There is a maid whose ways arc so 
wonderful and desirable that it would not be more won- 
derful and desirable if Helen had never grown old and 
Demeter had kept Persephone. For a day white-throated 
convolvulus hides all the nettles of life. Of all the 
delicate passing things I have seen and heard — the slow, 
languid, gracious closing and unclosing of a pewit's 
rounded wings as it chooses a clod to alight on; the sound 
of poplar leaves striving with the sound of rain in a 
windy summer shower; the glow of elms where an autumn 
rainbow sets a foot amongst them; the first fire of 
September lighted among men and books and flowers — not 
one survives to compare with this gateway vision of a 
moment on a road I shall never travel again. To rescue 



222 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

such scenes from time is one of the most blessed offices 
of books, and it is a book that I remember now as I 
think of that maiden smih'ng, a book ^ which says — 

And I could tell thee stories that would make thee 
laugh at all thy trouble, and take thee to a land of which 
thou hast never dreamed. Where the trees have ever 
blossoms, and are noisy with the humming of intoxicated 
bees. Where by day the suns are never burning, and by 
night the moon-stones ooze with nectar in the rays of the 
camphor-laden moon. Where the blue lakes are filled 
with rows of silver swans, and where, on steps of lapis- 
lazuli, the peacocks dance in agitation at the murmur of 
the thunder in the hills. Where the lightning flashes 
without harming, to light the way to women, stealing 
in the darkness to meetings with their lovers, and the 
rainbow hangs for ever like an opal on the dark blue 
curtain of the clouds. Where, on the moonlit roofs of 
crystal palaces, pairs of lovers laugh at the reflection of 
each other's lovesick faces in goblets of red wine, breath- 
ing as they drink air heavy with the fragrance of the 
sandal, wafted from the mountain of the south. Where 
they play and pelt each other with emeralds and rubies, 
fetched at the churning of the ocean from the bottom 
of the sea. Where rivers, whose sands are always golden, 
flow slowly past long lines of silent cranes that hunt for 
silver fishes in the rushes on their banks. Where men are 
true, and maidens love for ever, and the lotus never 
fades. . . . 

The great old books do the same a hundred times. 
Take The Arabian Nights for example. They are full 
of persons, places and events depicted with so strong an 
appeal to our eyes and to that part of our intelligence 

1 The Heifer of the Daivti, by F W. Bain. 



GOING WESTWARD 223 

which by its swiftness and simplicity corresponds to our 
eyes, that no conceivable malversation by a translator 
can matter much. They are proof against it, just as 
our tables and chairs and walking-sticks are proof against 
the man who tears our books and cracks our glass cases 
of artificial grapes or stuffed kingfishers when we move 
to a new house. This group of women is beyond the 
reach of time or an indifferent style — 

Ten female slaves approached with a graceful and 
conceited gait, resembling moons, dazzling the sight, and 
confounding the imagination. They stood in ranks, 
looking like the black-eyed damsels of Paradise; and after 
them came ten other female slaves, with lutes in their 
hands, and other instruments of diversion and mirth; and 
they saluted the two guests, and played upon the lutes, 
and sang verses; and every one of them was a temptation 
to the servants of God. . . . 

A hundred others flock to my mind, competing for 
mention like a company of doves for a mere pinch of 
seed — Rose-in-Bloom sitting at a lattice to watch the 
young men playing at ball, and throwing an apple to 
Ansal Wajoud, " bright in countenance, with laughing 
teeth, generous, wide-shouldered "; or that same girl let- 
ting herself down from her prison and escaping over the 
desert in her most magnificent apparel and a necklace of 
jewels on her neck; Sindbad returning home rich from 
every voyage, and as often, in the midst of the luxuries 
of his rest, going down to the river by Bagdad and seeing 
a fair new ship and embarking for the sake of profit and 
of beholding the countries and islands of the world. 

These clear appeals come into the tales like white 



224 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

statues suddenly carven to our sight among green 
branches. But they are also something more than a 
satisfaction to our love of what is large, bright, coloured, 
in high relief. Every one knows how, at a passage like 
that in the J£7ieid, when the exiled i^neas sees upon the 
new walls of the remote city of Carthage pictures of 
that strife about Troy in which he was a great part, or 
at a verse in a ballad like — 

" It was na in the ha', the ha' ; 

It was na in the painted bower ; 
But it was in the good greenwood, 
Amang the lily flower." 

— how the cheek flushes and the heart leaps up with a 
pleasure which the incidents themselves hardly justify. 
We seem to recognize in them symbols or images of 
ideas which are important to mortal minds. They are 
of a significance beyond allegories. They are as powerful, 
and usually as mysterious in their power, as the landscape 
at sight of which the gazer sighs in his joy, he knows not 
why. In such passages the Nights abound. 

One of the finest is in Seifebnolouk and Bedia EljemaL 
The hero and his memlooks were captured by a gigantic 
Ethiopian king. Some were eaten. The survivors so 
pleased the king by the sweetness of their voices while 
they were crying and lamenting that they w^ere hung up 
in cages for the king to hear them. Seifelmolouk and 
three of his companions the king gave to his daughter, 
and when the youth sat thinking of the happy past, and 
crying over it, she was overjoyed at the singing of her 
little captive. Perhaps more pleasing still is the door in 
the grass which has only to be removed to discover a 
splendid subterranean palace and a " woman whose aspect 



GOING WESTWARD 225 

banished from the heart all anxiety and grief and 
affliction," even when the finder is the son of a king 
cutting wood in a forest, far from his lost home and 
from those who know him as the son of a king. The 
incognito appearances of the great Caliph make scenes of 
the same class. A young man sits with his mistress, and 
the sound of her lovely singing draws four darwishes to 
the door; he descends and lets them in; they promise to 
do him an immense and undreamed-of service — 

" Now these darwishes," says the tale, " were the 
Khalifeh Harun Er-Rashid, and the Wezir Ja'far El- 
Barmeki, and Abu-Nuwas El-Hasan, the son of Hani, 
and Mesrur the Executioner." 

Then there is that page where Nimeh and the Persian 
sage open a shop in Damascus, and stock it with costly 
things, and the sage sits with the astrolabe before him, 
*' in the apparel of sages and physicians " — to wait for 
Nimeh's lover, or some one who has news of her, to 
appear. Of a more subtly appealing charm is a sen- 
tence in the story of " Ala-ed-din," where a man tells 
the father of one who is supposed to have been executed 
that another was actually slain in his stead, " for I 
ransomed him, by substituting another, from among such 
as deserved to be put to death." A good book might be 
made of the stories of such poor unknown men in famous 
books as this prisoner who was of those that deserved 
to die. 

Lofty, strange, and infinite in its suggestiveness is the 
tale of Kamar-ez-Zeman and the Princess Budur. Two 
demons, an Efrit and an Efritch, contend as to the 
superiority in beauty of a youth and a girl whom they 
watch asleep in widely remote parts of the earth; and 
Q 



226 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

they carry them through the midnight sky and lay the 
two side by side to judge. On the morrow, the youth 
longs for the girl and the girl for the youth. Of their 
dreams, the King, the father of the youth, says : " Prob- 
ably it was a confused dream that thou sawest in sleep," 
and the father of the girl chains her up as mad. But in 
the end, after many wanderings and impediments, they 
transcend the separation of space and arc married. 
Noblest of all, perhaps, is one of the short " Anecdotes " 
about the discovery of a terrestrial paradise. 

Abd-allah went out to seek a straying camel, and 
chanced upon a superb and high-walled city lying silent 
in the desert. And when the Caliph inquired about that 
city, a learned man told him that it was built by Sheddad, 
the King. This prince was fond of ancient books, and 
took delight in nothing so much as in descriptions of 
Paradise, so that his heart enticed him to make one like 
it on the earth. Under him were a hundred thousand 
kings, and under each of them were a hundred thousand 
soldiers, and he furnished them with the measurements 
and set them to collect the materials of gold and silver 
and ruby and pearl and chrysolite. For twenty years 
they collected. Then he sought a fit place among rivers 
on a vast open plain. In twenty years they built the 
city and finished its impregnable fortifications. For 
twenty years he laboured in equipping himself, his 
viziers, his harem and his troops for the occupation of 
this Paradise. Then when he was rejoicing on his way, 
" God sent down upon him and upon the obstinate 
infidels who accompanied him a loud cry from the heaven 
of his power, and it destroyed them all by the vehemence 
of its sound. Neither Sheddad nor any of those who 



GOING WESTWARD 227 

were with him arrived at the city or came in sight of it, 
and God obh'terated the traces of the road that led to it; 
but the city remaineth as it was in its place until the 
hour of the judgment." . . . 

Beyond the gateway the Downland and the corn 
begins, and with it the rain, so that the great yellow- 
banded bee hangs long pensive on the lilac flower of the 
scabious. Hereby is a farm with a wise look in its 
narrow window on either side of the white door under 
the porch; the walls of the garden and the farmyard 
are topped with thatch; opposite rises up a medlar tree, 
russet- fruited : and those two eyes of the little farm peep 
out at the stranger. From the next hill-top the land 
spreads out suddenly — an immense grey hedgeless land 
of pasture and ploughland and stubble with broadcast 
shadows of clouds and lines, and clumps of dark-blue 
trees a league apart. These woods are of pine and thorn 
and elder and beam, and some yew and juniper, haunted 
by the hare and the kestrel, by white butterflies going in 
and out, by the dandelion's down. Sometimes under the 
pines a tumulus whispers a gentle sisle viator and the 
robin sings beside. Far away, white rounds of cloud 
bursting with sunlight are lifted up out of the ground; 
born of earth they pause a little upon the ridge and then 
take flight into the blue profound, their trains of shadow 
moving over the corn sheaves, over the ploughs working 
along brown bands of soil, the furzy spaces, the deeply 
cloven grassy undulations, the lines of yews and of corn- 
stacks. Slowly a spire like a lance-head is thrust up 
through the Downs into the sky. 

Beyond the spire a huge woody mound rises up from 
the low flowing land, huge and carved all round by an 
Q 2 



228 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

entrenchment as if by the weight of a crown that it had 
worn for ages. Certainly it wears no crown to-day. Not 
a human being h'ves there; they have all fled to the river- 
side and the spire, leaving their ancient home to the 
triumphs of the wide-flowering traveller's-joy, to the play 
of children on the sward within its walls, and to the 
archaeologist : and very sad and very noble it looks at 
night when it and the surrounding Downs lift up their 
dark domes of wood among the mountains of the sky, 
and the great silence hammers upon the ears. 

Then a hedgeless road traverses without interrupting 
the long Downs. One after another, lines of trees thin 
and dark and old come out against the pale bright sky of 
late afternoon and file away, beyond the green turf and 
roots and the grey or yellow stubble. As the sun sets, 
dull crimson, at the foot of a muslin of grey and gold 
which his course has crimsoned, the low clouds on the 
horizon in the north become a deathly blue white belong- 
ing neither to day nor to night, while overhead the light- 
combed cloudlets are touched faintly with flame. Now 
the glory and the power of the colour in the west, and 
now the pallid north, fill the brain to overflowing with 
the mingling of distance, of sublime motion, and of hue, 
and intoxicate it and give it wings, until at last when the 
west is crossed by long sloping strata as of lava long cooled 
they seem the bars of a cage impassable. But even they 
are at last worn away and the sky is as nothing compared 
with earth. For there, as I move, the infinite greys and 
yellows of the crops, the grass, the bare earth, the clumps 
of firs, the lines of beeches and oaks, play together in the 
twilight, and the hills meet and lose their lines and flow 
into one another and build up beautiful lines anew, the 



GOING WESTWARD 229 

outward and visible signs of a great thought. Out of the 
darkness in which they are submerged starts a crying of 
pewits and partridges; and overhead and close together 
the wild duck fly west into the cold gilded blue. 

At dawn a shallow crystal river runs over stones and 
waves green hair past ancient walls of flint, tall towers 
and many windows, with vines about the mullions, past 
desolate grass of old elmy meads, high-gated, and 
umbrageous roads winding white by carven gateways, 
under sycamore and elm and ash and many alders and 
haughty avenues of limes, past an old great church, past 
a park where elms and oaks and bushy limes hide a ruin 
among nettles and almost hide a large stone house from 
which peacocks shout, past a white farm, red-tiled, that 
stands with a village of its own thatched barns, cart- 
lodges and sheds under walnut and elm, enclosed within 
a circuit of old brick with a tower that looks along the 
waters. It is a place where man has known how to aid 
his own stateliness by that of Nature. The trees are 
grand and innumerable, but they stand about in aristo- 
cratic ways; the bright young water does not flout the 
old walls but takes the shadow of antiquity from them 
and lends them dew-dropping verdure in return. The 
pebbles under the waves are half of them fallen from 
the walls; the curves round which they bend are of 
masonry; so that it is unapparent and indifferent whether 
the masonry has been made to fit the stream or the stream 
persuaded to admit the masonry. As I look, I think of 
it as Statius thought of the Surrentine villa when he prayed 
that Earth would be kind to it and not throw off that 
ennobling yoke. Everywhere the river rushes and shines, 
or roars unseen behind trees. The sun is warm and the 



230 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

golden light hangs as if it were fruit among the leaves 
over the ripples. 

Above the stream the elms open apart and disclose a 
wandering grey land and clumps of beeches, a grey windy 
land and a grey windy sky in which the dark clumps are 
islanded. Flocks of sheep move to and fro, and with them 
the swallows. Two shepherds, their heavy grey overcoats 
slung about their shoulders and the sleeves dangling, their 
flat rush baskets on their backs, stand twenty yards apart 
to talk, leaning on their sticks, while their swallow- 
haunted flocks go more slowly and their two dogs converse 
and walk round one another. 

The oats have been trampled by rain, and two men are 
reaping it by hand. They are not men of the farm, but 
rovers who take their chance and have done other things 
than reaping in their time. One is a Hampshire man, 
but fought with the Wiltshires against " Johnny Boer " — 
he liked the Boers ..." they were very much like a lot 
of working men. . . . We never beat 'em. . . . No, we 
never beat 'em." He is a man of heroic build; tall, lean, 
rather deep-chested than broad-shouldered, narrow in the 
loins, with goodly calves which his old riding breeches 
perfectly display; his head is small, his hair short and crisp 
and fair, his cheeks and neck darkly tanned, his eye bright 
blue and quick-moving, his features strong and good, except 
his mouth, which is over large and loose; very ready to 
talk, which he does continually in a great proud male voice, 
however hard he is working. A man as lean and hard 
and bright as his reaping hook. First he snicks off a 
dozen straws and lays them on the ground for a bond, 
then he slashes fast along the edge of the corn for two 
or three yards, gathers up what is cut into his hook and 



GOING WESTWARD 231 

lays it across the straws : when a dozen sheaves are pre- 
pared in the same way he binds them with the bonds and 
builds them into a stook of two rows leaning together. 
It is impossible to work faster and harder than he does 
in cutting and binding; only at the end of each dozen 
sheaves does he stand at his full height, straight as an ash, 
and laugh, and round off what he has been saying even 
more vigorously than he began it. Then crouching again 
he slays twelve other sheaves. Then he goes over to the 
four-and-a-half-gallon cask in the hedge : it is a " fuel " 
that he likes, and he pays for it himself. In his walk and 
attitude and talk — except in his accent — there is little of 
the countryman. He is a citizen of the world, without 
wife or home or any tie except to toil — and after that 
pleasure — and toil again. A loose bold liver — and lover 
— there can be no doubt. The spirit of life is strong in 
him, in limbs and chest and eyes and brain, the spirit 
which compels one man to paint a picture, one to sacrifice 
his life for another, one to endure poverty for an idea, 
another to commit a murder. What is there for him — 
to be the mark for a bullet, to contract a ravenous disease, 
to bend slowly under the increasing pile of years, of work, 
of pleasures ? He does not care. He is always seeing " a 
bit of life " from town to town, from county to county, a 
peerless fleshly man casting himself away as carelessly as 
Nature cast him forth into the world. His father before 
him was the same, ploughboy, circus rider, brickmaker, and 
day labourer again on the land, one who always " looked 
for a policeman when he had had a quart." He set out 
on his travels again and disappeared. His wife went 
another way, and she is still to be met with in the summer 
weather, not looking as if she had ever borne such a son 



232 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

as this reaper. As she grows older she seems to stretch 
out a connecting hand to long-vanished generations, to 
the men and women who raised the huge earthen walls 
of the camps on these hills. She has a trembling small 
face, wrinkled and yellow like old newspaper, above a 
windy bunch of rags, chiefly black rags. A Welshwoman 
who has been in England fifty years, she remembers or 
thinks of chiefly those Welsh years when, as a girl, she 
rode a pony into Neath market. She hums a Welsh tune 
and still laughs at it because she heard it first in those 
days from one then poor and old and abject — she herself 
tall and wilful — and the words of it were : " O, my dear 
boy, don't get married." She would like once again to 
lie in her warm bed and hear the steady rain falling in the 
black night upon the mountain. She feels the sharp flint 
against the sole of her foot and appears not to be annoyed 
or indignant or resolved to be rid of the pain, but only 
puzzled by the flintiness of God as she travels, in the long 
pageant of those who go on living, the lonely downland 
road among the gorse and the foxgloves, in the hot but 
still misty morning when the grey and the chestnut horses, 
patient and huge and shining among the sheaves, wait for 
the reaping machine to be uncovered and the day's work 
to begin. 

Through the grey land goes a narrow and flat vale of 
grass and of thatched cottages. The river winds among 
willows and makes a green world, out of which the 
Downs rise suddenly with their wheat. Here stands a 
farm with dormers in its high yellow roof and a square of 
beeches round about. There a village, even its walls 
thatched, flutters white linen and blue smoke against a 
huge chalk scoop in the Downs behind. For miles only 



GOING WESTWARD 233 

the cherry-coloured clusters of the guelder-rose break 
through the rain and the gently changing grey of the 
cornland and green of the valley, until several farms of 
thatched brick gather together under elms and mellowing 
chestnuts and make a crooked hamlet. Or at a bend in 
the road a barn like a diminutive down stands among ricks 
and under elms; behind is a red farm and church tower 
embowered; in front, the threshing machine booms and 
smokes and an old drenched woman stands bent aloft 
receiving the sheaves in her blue stiff claws. Close by, 
a man leads a horse away from a field and its companion 
looks over the gate with longing, and turns away and 
again returning almost jumps it, but failing through fear- 
fulness at seeing the other so near the bend in the road, 
races down the hedge and back and stands listening to 
the other's whinny, and then scattering the turf dashes 
into an orchard beyond and whinnies as he gallops. 

In majesty, rigid and black, the steam ploughs are 
working up against the treeless sky; and, just seen in the 
rain, the white horse carved upon the hill seems a living 
thing, but of mist. 

Now, as if for the sake of the evening bells and the 
gleaners, the rain withholds itself, and over the drenching 
stubble the women and children, in black and grey and 
dirty white, crawl, doubled up, careless of the bells and 
of the soft moist gold of the sun that envelops them, as 
of the rain and wind that after a little while cover up the 
gold upon the field and the green and rose of the sky. 

And so to the inn. Why do not inns have a regular 
tariff for the poorish man without a motor-car ? Let inn- 
keepers bleed the rich, by all means, but why should they 
charge me one shilling and ninepence for a cod steak or a 



234 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

chop or the uneatable cold roast beef of new England, 
and then charge the same sum for the best part of a duck- 
ling and cheese and a pint of ale ? I once asked the most 
enterprising publisher in London whether he would print 
a book that should tell the sober truth about some of our 
English inns, and he said that he dared not do anything 
so horrible. For fear of ruining my publisher I will not 
mention names, but simply say that at nine inns out of 
ten the charges are incalculable and excessive unless the 
traveller makes a point of asking beforehand what they 
are going to be, a course that provokes discomfort in his 
relation to the host outweighing what is saved. The tea 
room, on the other hand, is inexpensive. It lies behind a 
shop and there is a slaughter-house adjacent — even now 
the butcher can be heard parting the warm hide from the 
flesh. Inside, the room is green and the little light and 
the rain also come sickly through windows of stained 
glass and fall upon a piano, a bicycle, an embroidered 
deck chair, vases of dead grass on a marble-topped table, 
a screen pasted over with scraps from the newspapers, 
and, upon the walls, a calendar from the butcher depicting 
a well-dressed love scene, a text or two, pictures of well- 
dressed children and their animals, and upon the floor, 
oilcloth odorous and wet. Here, as at the inns, the adorn- 
ments are dictated by a taste begotten by the union of 
peasant taste and town taste, and are entirely pretentious 
and unrelated to the needs of the host or of the guests. 



CHAPTER XIV 

AN OLD HOUSE AND A BOOK WILTSHIRE 

The country is deserted in the rain, and I have the 
world to myself, a world of frenzied rain among the elms 
of the lowland, an avenue of elms up to a great house, 
hidden sheep tinkling and bleating, shepherds muffled, 
huge slopes of grass and pearled clover above a coombe 
where a grey heron sails and clanks alone, a farm desolate 
among elder and ash at the highest part of the hills, and 
then miles of pathless pasture and stubble descending past 
an old camp and a tumulus to the submerged vale, where 
yellow elms tremble about a church tower, a cluster of 
red cottages and bowed yellow dahlias and chrysanthe- 
mums, and a house standing aloof. This house is some 
way from the Downs themselves, but just at the foot of a 
lesser slope, a fair golden hill — golden with cowslips in 
May — that rises on one side with a swift, short ascent 
and then shoots forward, as if with the impetus, almost 
level until, after crowning itself with beeches, it descends 
in a lazy curve to a field, roughened by the foundations 
of a vanished house, at one corner of which the chimneys 
join with another group of elms in the haze of rain. 

Hanging from the wall in rags, too wet even to flap, 
are the remains of an auctioneer's announcement of a sale 
at the house behind. Mahogany — oak chests — certain 
ounces of silver — two thousand books — portraits and 
landscapes and pictures of horses and game — of all these 
and how much else has the red house been disem- 

235 



236 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

bowelled ? It is all shadowy within, behind the windows, 
like the eyes of a corpse, and without sound, or form, or 
light, and it is for no one that the creeper magnificently 
arrays itself in bediamonded crimson and gold that throbs 
and wavers in the downpour. The martins are still there, 
and their play up and down before the twenty windows 
is a senseless thing, like the play of children outside a 
chamber of agony or grief. They seem to be machines 
going on and on when their master and purpose are dead. 
But then, too, there is gradually a consolation, a restful- 
ness, a deceit, a forgetting, in the continuity of their 
movement and their unchanged voices. The two hundred 
autumns perpetuated in the tones of the bricks are in vain. 
Strangers will come, no doubt — I hope they will not — 
and be pleased, actually proud, at this mellowness, which 
ought to have died with the last of the family that built 
the house. 

The tall horse-chestnuts throw down their fruit out of 
the crisp, rusty foliage and it rolls darkly burnished out 
of the pods white as mushrooms in the rain, and where it 
falls it lies, and no child gathers it, and the harvest 
waggons have crushed a thousand under their wheels. 
The moss is beginning to encrust the gravel for the soft 
feet of the ghosts, of the old men and the mothers and 
the maids and the school-boys and tottering babes that 
have trodden it once. Now that they are all gone, every 
one, they seem always to have been ghosts, with loud, 
happy voices and wails of sorrow, with smiles, dark looks, 
passionate splendours, bright hair, the bright brown hair 
as of red deer in the men, the long, heavy coils of living 
odorous gold in the women, but flitting to and fro, foot- 
less, unconfined, like the swallows, returning and wander- 



AN OLD HOUSE AND A BOOK 237 

ing up and down, as if they had left something behind in 
their home. 

When I first entered the house by an accident in pass- 
ing that way, a great-grandfather, a granddaughter and 
her son were alone in the house, with two servants. The 
mother, early widowed, had come with her child to 
minister to the last days of the ancient man. The house 
was by then full of the reports of death. In almost every 
room there had been a deathbed. For it had always been 
full of life; there was never such a house for calling back 
its children; the sons of it brought their wives, and the 
daughters their husbands, and often an excuse was made 
for one pair to stay on indefinitely; and thus it came to 
be full also of death. This granddaughter, however, had 
stayed, as she wished to believe, against her will, because 
the old man was so fond of his great-grandchild. She 
was a beautiful, strong woman, with the dark, lustrous 
skin, gold hair, perfect clear features, proud step and 
prouder voice, of all the family; she had shone before a 
thousand eyes; and yet she stayed on and on, obsessed by 
the multitudinous memories of the house alone under the 
Downs. 

Her grandfather would talk of nothing but his father 
and his grandfather, the lawyers, the captains, the scholars, 
whose bones were under the churchyard elms, and his 
sons and their sons, all of them also now dead. He had 
their childish ways by heart, the childish ways of men 
who were white-haired at his birth as well as of those 
who went golden-haired but yesterday into the grave; 
and all their names, their stately, their out-of-the-way 
names, and those which recorded the maiden names of 
their mothers; their nicknames, too, a whole book of 



238 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

them; the legends about the most conspicuous, their 
memorable speeches and acts, down to the names of their 
very dolls, and their legends also, which, of course, 
recurred again and again in the family fantasy. Every 
tree and field and gate and room was connected with 
some one of the dear and beauteous or brave dead, with 
their birth, their deeds, their ends. 

The portraits of many of them, at least one to every 
generation, hung on the walls, and it was curious to 
notice, what never any one of them could see, except the 
granddaughter, the progress and the decline from genera- 
tion to generation. The earliest of all had sailed and 
buccaneered with Henry Morgan, a great lover and de- 
stroyer of life. It was from him that the expression and 
air of them all had descended. Love and battle had 
carved his face. Out from behind his bold but easy face 
peered a prophetic pitifulness, just as behind the loaded 
brown clouds of drifting storm peers the innocence of 
blue, and upon it white clouds that are thin and waved 
like an infant's hair. Upon this model his descendants' 
faces had been carved, not by love and battle, but by his 
might alone. Even the tender women flaunted it. It 
nestled, an eagle, among the old man's snows; it pos- 
sessed the little child, and he had nothing but the face 
of the buccaneer, like an eaglet in a cage. 

A house is a perdurable garment, giving and taking of 
life. If it only fit, straightway it begins to chronicle our 
days. It beholds our sorrows and our joys; its untale- 
bearing walls know all our thoughts, and if it be such 
a house as grows after the builders are gone, our thoughts 
presently owe much to it; we have but to glance at a 
certain shadow or a curve in the wall-paper pattern to 



AN OLD HOUSE AND A BOOK 239 

recall them, softened as by an echo, and that corner or 
that gable starts many a fancy that reaches beyond the 
stars, many a fancy gay or enriched with regrets. It is 
aware of birth, marriage and death; and who dares say that 
there is not kneaded into the stones a record more pleas- 
ing than brass? With what meanings the vesperal beam 
slips through a staircase window in autumn ! The moon 
has an expression proper to us alone, nested among our 
limes, or heaving an ivory shoulder above the neighbour 
roofs. As we enter a room in our house we are conscious 
of a fitness in its configuration that defies mathematics. 
Rightly used, such a space will inspire a stately ordering 
of our lives; it is, in another respect, the amplest canvas 
for the art of life. It becomes so much a part of us that 
we exclaim — 

" This beautiful house is sand and stone : 
What will it be in heaven ? " 

This beautiful house under the Downs was already 
more than " sand and stone." It was a giant, very gentle 
but very powerful, and adding to its power the lore of the 
family it was irresistible. This young mother had all the 
lore by heart and loved it, yet had fought against it. She 
had been happy when her child had grown at first unlike 
her own family and much like her husband's; but no! his 
hair grew lighter, his nose was as those of her brothers' 
in bud, and now that he was five he was not a child so 
much as an incarnation of the family, a sort of graven 
image to which the old man bowed down, and with all 
the more fervour because of that weakness in the boy 
which others thought imbecility. The old man, too, had 
been not only a man but a family; now that the child was 



240 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

there he waited, garrulously contented, for his release 
from the post. So contented was he that when the grand- 
daughter left her child with him, and after delays and 
excuses and delays disappeared into the blank, indifferent 
abyss of the multitude far away who knew not the house 
and the family, he was not only contented but glad at 
heart, for it was a rebel that was gone. 

For several years the white beard and the poor child 
lived together happily, turning over old memories, old 
books, old toys, taking the old walks through the long 
garden, past, but not into, the beech wood that a whim of 
the old man's had closed against even himself, against all 
save the birds and the squirrels; over the high downs and 
back into the deep vale which had produced that delicate 
physical beauty and those gracious lusty ways beyond 
which it seemed that men and women could hardly go in 
earthly life. Very happy were those two, and very 
placid; but within a week their tragic peace was per- 
fected. The boy fell out of one of the apple-trees and 
was killed. The old man could not but stumble over 
that small grave into his own, and here is the end, the 
unnoted, the common end, and the epitaph written by 
the auctioneer and the rain. 

Much as I love rain, heavy or light, freakish or con- 
tinuous, I am glad to be out of it for a little while and 
to open a book of ballads by a solitary fire at " The 
White Horse," and soon to close it after reading again 
the lines — 

" O then bespake her daughter dear, 
She was baith jimp and sma' : 
* O row me in a pair o' sheets, 
And tow me owre the wa' ! ' 



AN OLD HOUSE AND A BOOK 241 

They rowM her in a pair o' sheets, 

And tow'd her owre the wa' ; 
But on the point o* Gordon's spear 

She gat a deadly fa'. 

bonnie, bonnie was her mouth, 
And cherry were her cheeks. 

And clear, clear was her yellow hair. 
Whereon the red blood dreeps. 

Then wi' his spear he turn'd her owre ; 

gin her face was wan ! 

He said, ' Ye are the first that e'er 

1 wish'd alive again.' 

He cam' and lookit again at her ; 
O gin her skin was white ! 

* I might hae spared that bonnie face 

To hae been some man's delight. 

* Busk and boun, my merry men a'. 

For ill dooms I do guess ; 

1 cannot look on that bonnie face 

As it lies on the grass.' 

* Wha looks to freits, my master dear, 

Its freits will follow them ; 
Let it ne'er be said that Edom o' Gordon 
Was daunted by a dame. . . .' " 

I cannot help wondering whether the great work done 
in the last century and a half towards the recovery of old 
ballads in their integrity will have any effect beyond the 
entertainment of a few scientific men and lovers of what 
is ancient, now that the first effects upon Wordsworth 
and his contemporaries have died away. Can it possibly 
give a vigorous impulse to a new school of poetry that 
shall treat the life of our time and what in past times has 
most meaning for us as freshly as those ballads did the 
life of their time? It is possible; and it is surely impos- 
sible that such examples of simple, realistic narrative shall 

R 



242 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

be quite in vain. Certainly the more they are read the 
more they will be respected, and not only because they 
often deal with heroic matters heroically, but because 
their style is commonly so beautiful, their pathos so 
natural, their observation of life so fresh, so fond of 
particular detail — its very lists of names being at times 
real poetry. 

Sometimes the style is equal and like to that of the 
most accomplished poetry, as in the stanza — 

"The Ynglyshe men let ther boys (bows) be, 
And pulde owt brandes that were brighte ; 
It was a hevy syght to se 

Bryght swordes on basnites lyght." 

Or in— 

" God send the land deliverance 

Frae every reaving, riding Scot ! 
We'll sune hae neither cow nor ewe. 
We'll sune hae neither staig nor stot," 

It is equally good in passages where the poet simply 
expresses his hearty delight in something which his own 
eyes have seen among his neighbours, as in — 

" He had horse and harness for them all, 
Goodly steeds were all milke-white : 
O the golden bands an about their necks, 

And their weapons, they were all alike. . . ." 

And, by the way, do not touches like these often reveal 
the stamp of individuals upon pieces which are loosely i 
said to have been " composed by the folk " ? They quite 
do away with the notion that ballads were composed by 
a number of people, after the fashion of a story in the 
game of "Consequences." In fact, it is one of the 
pleasures of reading ballads to watch for those things 



AN OLD HOUSE AND A BOOK 243 

which show us the heart of one man who stands out by 
himself. Such a one was the man who said — 

" I dreamt I pu'd the heather green 
Wi' my true love on Yarrow." 

And who was that unhappy one who served a king for 
seven years and only once saw the king's daughter, and 
that was through a gimlet-hole? Two were plitting on 
her gown, two putting on her shoes, five were combing 
down her hair — 

" Her neck and breast was like the snow — 
Then from the bore I was forced to go." 

Was he the man who made it a common thing to speak 
in ballads of " combing her yellow hair " ? 

What a poet, too, was he who put that touch into 
" Bewick and Grahame," where the father throws down 
his glove as a challenge to his son and the son stoops to 
pick it up, and says — 

" O father, put on your glove again, 

The wind hath blown it from your hand." 

It is one of the most delicate things, and with it the 
stanza in the same ballad where the father praises the son 
for his victory over a friend, but the son, hating the battle 
which would not have been fought if the fathers had not 
quarrelled in their wine, says — 

" Father, could ye not drink your wine at home 
And letten me and my brother be ? " 

And the mind of a poet is to be seen in the whole of 
some ballads and in every detail, as for example in the 
three perfect verses — 
R 2 



244 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

" O lang, lang may their ladies sit 
Wi' their fans into their hand, 
Or ere they see Sir Patrick Spens 
Come sailing to the land. 

O lang, lang may the ladies stand, 
Wi' their gold combs in their hair, 

Wailing for their ain dear lords, 
For they'll see them na mair. 

Half-owre, half-owre to Aberdour, 

It's liftie fadom deep. 
And there lies guid Sir Patrick Spens, 

Wi' the Scots lords at his feet." 

This ballad is one peculiar to our island, and no one 
can seriously deny that some one of its authors was one 
of the greatest writers of narrative poetry that ever lived. 



i 



CHAPTER XV 

AN OUTCAST WILTSHIRE 

Not far from " The White Horse " is a h'ttle town 
upon a stream that waves myriads of reeds and tall purple 
flowers of hemp agrimony. These are the last shops I 
am likely to pass in Wiltshire, and it occurs to me that 
I should like to taste lardy cakes — which I last bought 
in Wroughton fifteen years ago — before I leave the 
county. Richard Jefferies' grandfather was "My Lord 
Lardy Cake " in old Swindon sixty years ago, and his 
memory is kept alive by those tough, sweet slabs of larded 
pastry which, in his generous ovens, gathered all the best 
essences of the other cakes, pies, tarts and joints which 
were permitted to be baked with them. In "Amaryllis 
at the Fair " they are mentioned with some indignity as 
a ploughboy's delicacy. My lips water for them, and 

at the first bakery in I a$k for some. The baker 

tells me he has sold the last one. He is a small, white- 
haired and white-bearded man with an expression of 
unctuous repose, assuredly a pillar of his chapel and pos- 
sibly its treasurer, and though he himself will, by his 
own telling, have no more lardy cakes until the next 
morning, he stiffly tries to persuade me that none of his 
fellow-townsmen bakes them. I disbelieve the man of 
dough for all his conscious look of sagacity and virtue, and 
am rewarded for my disbelief by four lardy cakes for 
threepence-halfpenny not many yards from his accursed 
threshold. Lardy cakes, I now discover for the first time, 

245 



246 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

have this merit besides their excellent taste and provision 
of much pleasant but not finical labour for the teeth, that 
one is enough at a time, and that four will, therefore, 
take a man quite a long way upon the roads of England. 

At the next inn three labourers and the landlord are 
heated in conversation about some one not present. 

" Quite right," says one, a sober carter whose whip 
leans against the counter, "'tis the third time this week 
that a tramp has been to his door, and by the looks of 
them they didn't call for naught." 

" One of them didn't, I know," says the landlord. 
" He came in here once and asked for a job and left 
without a drink, but after he'd been to Stegbert's Cottage 
he came straight here and ordered a pint of mild. And I 
heard as he let a chap and a woman sleep two nights 
running in that rough patch behind the house. Don't you 
think the parson ought to hear of that? And what does 
he do for a living? He looks poor enough himself." 

" I don't know. Mr. Jones is a kind-hearted fellow. 
He stopped my youngest in the street the other day and 
gave her a penny and measured her hair, and told her 
she'd have a yard of it some day. They tell me he hasn't 
a carpet on the floor anywhere, and no parlour, and not 
even a chest of drawers; and the postman says he hasn't 
a watch or a clock. What does he do with himself? " 

" I reckon he's mad," says the third, chuckling, " and I 
don't mind if he is. My old dog doesn't need feeding at 
home since he's been here. He doesn't eat no meat him- 
self neither. The widow Nash was reckoning it up, and 
she says he spends four shillings a week " 

"And a shilling here regular," interjects the landlord. 



AN OUTCAST 247 

"On groceries, including one-and-six for tobacco. He 
has four loaves, and I know * Kruger ' must have more 
than half of them." 

" And every other w^eek he buys a postal order for tw^o 
shillings and a penny stamp " 

" Pint of mild, mister," says a tall blear-eyed man w^ho 
comes in, meekly followed by a small woman, dusty and 
in rags but neat, to whom he offers the tankard after 
nearly draining it himself. 

" Nice weather," he ventures, smacking his lips. 

" Yes," says the landlord discouragingly, and the carter 
leaves. 

"Everybody seems to be gone to the flower show," 
continues the intruder, " and that's where I'm going " 
(here he looks at his boots), " but the best way for sore 
feet is three days in a tap-room in some good sawdust." 

The wife sighs. 

" The fat woman that weighs twenty-three stone," says 
her husband to the company, " is a cousin of mine twice 
removed, and I have done a bit in the show line myself. 
It's a rum business. Better than working in a brewery 
stables, though. Me and my mate had to go because we 
got up so early that we burnt too many candles." 

The mention of the fat woman rouses the labourers, 
and one says — 

"They say them fat women eats hardly anything 
at all." 

" Very small eater is Daisy. But you see her food 
does her good. None of it's wasted." 

" That's it. Her food agrees with her." 

The wife sighs. 

" Now there's my missus here," says the husband. 



248 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

" She was one of these pretty gallus dancing-girls who 
get their fifteen shillings a week. Her food don't 
nourish her. Now my brother used to laugh in publics 
for a pint and he would laugh till they gave him a pint 
to stop." 

" Oh, I can laugh after a pint," says the wife, " but 
then I could just as easy cry, I worries so. There's many 
a aching heart goes up and down that Great Western 
Railway in the express trains." 

" I never worries, missus," says a labourer with pursy 
mouth, short pipe, and head straight up behind from his 
neck. 

" Quite right," says the husband. " My old girl here 
lives on the fat of the land and is always thin. Her food 
don't nourish her. There's more harm done in the world 
by a discontented gut than anything else. I think of 
asking her to try living on her pipe by itself." 

" Like Mr. Jones over there," says one of the labourers. 

" Mr. Jones ? What, my friend Mr. William Jones ? " 
asks the tall man. 

" Is he a friend of yours ? " asks the landlord, curiosity 
overpowering his natural caution with a man who is sell- 
ing spectacles at a shilling a pair. 

" He is, and I don't mind letting any one know it. I'm 
very glad to see him settled down. He's the only one 
along the road who hasn't gone to the flower show 
to-day." Here the tall man calls for another tankard, 
which, as he is doing all the talking, he does not pass to 
the small neat woman behind him. Pleased to be civilly 
used, and warmed by the liquor, he tells the story of his 
friend, the little woman helping him out, and landlord 
and labourers adding some touches; and Mr. Jones him- 






AN OUTCAST 249 

self completed the picture during my few days in the 
village. 

The man who fed his neighbour's dog, and sent the 
beggar satisfied away, and made presents to the children, 
and lived on six ounces of tobacco a week, is a native of 
Zennor in Cornwall. "Wonderful place for pedlars is 
Cornwall. The towns are so few and far between that 
the people along the road aren't used to pedlars, and when 
you do call you are sure of the best of treatment." He 
was apprenticed to a shoemaker in a town in South 
Devon, and for a time practised his trade there as an 
assistant. He was very clever at boxing and wrestling, 
and a hard fighter, too, though unwilling to make a 
quarrel. But he was a queer youth and took violent likes 
and dislikes to men, and one day he dropped a boot and 
went out into the street and took a young gentleman by 
the arm and said to him : " Excuse me, sir, you have 
passed this shop for five years nearly every day and I 
can't stand it any longer." Whereupon he gave that 
young gentleman a beating. He was sent to prison; he 
lost his employment and went to sea. And at sea or else 
in foreign countries he stayed six years. He left the sea 
only because he broke an arm which had at length to be 
amputated above the elbow. He was a changed man and 
many thought then that he was mad. When he left the 
hospital it was December and bitter weather : he had only 
five shillings and it was notorious how he spent it. 
Every day for a week he bought three loaves of bread 
and went out and fed the birds with them. When that 
week was over he had to go into the workhouse, and 
there he stayed until the spring. It was there that he 
fell in with the tall man who helped to tell his tale. 



250 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

They left together and for some time he almost kept 
the two by begging, his lack of an arm ensuring his 
success. But he was not altogether to his companion's 
taste, nevertheless. He would stop and smoke a pipe and 
admire the view when he was miles from anywhere and 
their object was to reach a town and find enough money 
to pay for lodgings. He would stand by a hedge, content 
for an hour to disentangle the bryony strands that were 
in danger of straying to the road, and to restore them to 
the hazel and thorn where their fellows ramped. He was 
willing to be foster-father to half the helpless fledglings 
that he found on the roadside. Sleeping one night in a 
barn he could not be persuaded to leave until he had 
decided whether it was better to kill a spider who had a 
great appetite for flies or to leave it to Fate. Several he 
rescued from the web and then out of pity for the spider 
brought it flies already dead; but finding that these were 
not to its taste he left the difficulty unsolved and went 
sadly on his way. Almost equal to his pitifulness was his 
dislike of work and his moral cowardice. Nothing could 
persuade him to do any work, and such a coward was he 
that if he failed at the first house where he offered his 
laces for sale he would not try again in that village or 
town. Yet he did not scruple to steal — even with a hint 
of physical violence — if he needed anything which chance 
presented to him in another man's possession : but he stole 
only necessaries, having none of the acquisitiveness which 
is more common in their victims than in thieves. Few 
men use leisure as well as he; perhaps no man was ever 
idle with less harm to his fellows. The rich could have 
learned many lessons at his feet : they must always be 
shooting or driving furiously or meddling with politics 



AN OUTCAST 251 

or stopping footpaths; they cannot be kept out of harm, 
however rich. How well this man would have employed 
money : he would have given it away I 

By and by his pity for goaded cattle and his frequent 
gazings into their brown eyes as they stared at him by a 
stile still further reduced his necessities — he would touch 
no meat; so that his companion, finding him no longer of 
much use in spite of his possession of but one arm, left 
him and only crossed his path at increasing intervals of 
time. It was now that Jones remembered with horror 
a scene which had slumbered in his mind with the fear 
which it originally roused in youth. He and other boys 
were in the habit of peeping through a hole in the wall 
of a slaughter-house and watching the slaughter, the 
skinning and the cutting up, until their ears became 
familiar with the groans, the screams, the gurglings, the 
squelchings in the half-darkness of candle-light, the blood 
and white faces and the knife. But one day there was 
led into the slaughter-house a white heifer fresh from the 
May pasture, clean and bright from Her gleaming rosy 
hoofs to the tips of the horns that swayed as she walked. 
Her breath made, as it were, a sacred space about her as 
the light of a human face will do. She stood quiet but 
uncertain and musingly in the dark, soaked, half-ruinous 
place, into which light only came in bars through' a cob- 
webbed lattice and fell that day upon her white face, 
leaving in darkness the tall butcher and the imbecile 
assistant who held the rope by which the animal's head 
was drawn down to the right level for a blow. The men 
were in no hurry and as the heifer was not restive they 
finished their talk about Home Rule. Then the idiot tried 
to put her into the right position, but for a time could 



252 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

not get her to see that her head must be drawn tight and 
somewhat askew against the oaken pillar. He only suc- 
ceeded by patting her flanks and saying gently as if to a 
girl : " Come along, Daisy ! " She lowed soft and bowed 
her head; the blow fell; she rolled to the ground and the 
butcher once more let loose the heavy scent of blood. 
The wholesome pretty beast, the familiar " Come along, 
Daisy! " and the blow and the scent came often into 
Jones' mind. He ate no meat, but made no attempt to 
proselytize; he simply retreated deeper and deeper ihto 
his childlike love of Nature. The birds and the flowers 
and the creeping and running things he seemed to regard 
as little happy, charming, undeveloped human beings, 
looking down on them with infinite tenderness and a little 
amusement; with them alone was he quite at home. 
Nature, as she presented herself to his simple senses, was 
but a fragrant, many-coloured, exuberant, chiefly joyous 
community, with which most men were not in harmony. 
Silent for days and thinking only " green thoughts " under 
the branches of the wood, he came to demand, uncon- 
sciously, that there should be such a harmony. But he 
loved Nature also because she had no ambiguity, told no 
lies, uttered no irony. Sitting among flowers by running 
water he wore an expression of blessed satisfaction with 
his company which is not often seen at the friendliest 
table. He drew no philosophy from Nature, no opinions, 
ideas, proposals for reform, but only the wisdom to live, 
happily and healthily and simply, himself. 

I dare say modernity was in his blood, but no man 
seemed to belong less to our time. Of history and science 
he knew nothing, of literature nothing; he had to make 
out the earth with his own eyes and heart. He had not 



AN OUTCAST 253 

words for it, but he felt that whatever he touched was 
God. No myth or reh'gfon had any value to him. There 
were no symbols for him to use. The deities he surmised 
or smelt or tasted in the air or upon the earth had neither 
name nor shape. Had he been able to think, he was the ^ 
man to put our generation on the way to a new myth- 
ology. For all I know, he had the vision, the power of 
the seer, without the power of the prophet. A little more 
and perhaps he would have invaded Christendom as St. 
Paul invaded Heathendom. Yet I think he was not 
wholly the loser by being unable to think. The eye 
untroubled by thought sees things like a mirror newly 
burnished; at night, for example, the musing man can see 
nothing before him but a mist, but if he stops thinking 
quickly the roads, the walls, the trees become visible. 
So this man saw with a clearness as of Angelico, and in 
his memory violets and roses, trees and faces were as clear 
as if within his brain were another sun to light them. 
He had but to close his eyes to see these things, an 
innumerable procession of days and their flowers and their 
birds in the sky or on the bough. And this he had at no 
cost. He employed only such labour as was needed to 
make his bread and occasionally clothes and a pipe. Nor 
did he merely ask alms of Nature and Civilization. He 
paid back countless charities to flower and bird and child 
and poorer men, and there was nothing against him of 
pain or sorrow or death inflicted. And as he was without 
religion so he was without patriotism. He had no 
country, knew nothing of men and events. Asked by 
a person who saw him idle and did not observe his defect, 
whether he would not like to do something for his country, 
he replied : " I have no country like you, sir. I own 



254 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

nothing; my people never did, that I know. I admire 
those that do, for I have been in many a country when 
I was a sailor, but never a one to beat England, let alone 
the West Country when it's haymaking time." 

He continued to beg with a free conscience, and was 
always willing to give away all that he had to one in 
more need. And now chance found him out and gave 
him ten shillings a week. He rented a cottage in this 
village, weeded his flower-borders, but let his vegetable- 
plots turn into poppy-beds. Sometimes he wearied of 
his monotonous meals ; he would then fast for a day or 
two, giving his food to the birds and mice, until his hearty 
appetite returned. . . . 

He did not stay long in the village. He was shy and 
suspicious of men, and except by the younger children he 
was not liked. He set out on his travels again, and is still 
on the road or — unlike most tramps — on the paths and 
green lanes, the simplest, kindest, and perhaps the wisest 
of men, indifferent to mobs, to laws, to all of us who 
are led aside, scattered and confused by hollow goods, 
one whom the last day of his full life will not find in a 
whirlpool of affairs, but ready to go— an outcast. 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE END OF SUMMER KENT BERKSHIRE — HAMP- 
SHIRE SUSSEX THE FAIR 

The road mounts the low Downs again. The bound- 
less stubble is streaked by long bands of purple-brown, 
the work of seven ploughs to which the teams and their 
carters, riding or walking, are now slowly descending by 
different ways over the slopes and jingling in the rain. 
Above is a Druid moor bounded by beech-clumps, and 
crossed by old sunken ways and broad grassy tracks. It 
is a land of moles and sheep. At the end of a shattered 
line of firs a shepherd leans, bunched under his cape of 
sacking, to watch his black- faced flock dull-tinkling in the 
short furze and among the tumuli under the constant 
white rain. Those old roads, being over hilly and open 
land, are as they were before the making of modern roads, 
and little changed from what they were before the 
Roman. But it is a pity to see some of the old roads that 
have been left to the sole protection of the little gods. 
One man is stronger than they, as may be known by 
any one who has seen the bones, crockery, tin and paper 
thrown by Shere and Cocking into the old roads near by 
as into a dust-bin; or seen the gashes in the young trees 
planted down Gorst Road, Wandsworth Common; or 
the saucy " Private " at the entrance to a lane worn by a 
hundred generations through the sand a little north of 
Petersfield; or the barbed wire fastened into the living 
trees alongside the footpath over a neighbouring hill that 

255 



256 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

has lately been sold. What is the value of every one's 
right to use a footpath if a single anti-social exclusive 
landowning citizen has the right to make it intolerable 
except to such as consider it a place only for the soles of 
the feet? The builder of a house acquires the right to 
admit the sunlight through his window. Cannot the users 
of a footpath acquire a right, during the course of half-a- 
dozen dynasties or less, to the sight of the trees and the 
sky which that footpath gives them in its own separate 
way? At least I hope that footpaths will soon cease to 
be defined as a line — length without breadth — connecting 
one point with another. In days when they are used as 
much for the sake of the scenes historic or beautiful 
through which they pass as of the villages or houses on 
this hand or that, something more than the mere right 
to tread upon a certain ribbon of grass or mud will have 
to be preserved if the preservation is to be of much use, 
and the right of way must become the right of view and 
of very ancient lights as well. By enforcing these rights 
some of the mountains of the land might even yet be 
saved, as Mr. Henry S. Salt wishes to save them.^ In 
the meantime it is to be hoped that his criticisms will not 
be ignored by the tourists who leave the Needle Gully 
a cascade of luncheon wrappings and the like; for it is 
not from a body of men capable of such manners that 
a really effective appeal against the sacrifice of *' our 
mountains " to commercial and other selfishness is like 
to spring. 

And those lone wayside greens, no man's gardens, 
measuring a few feet wide but many miles in length- 
why should they be used either as receptacles for the 

1 See his valuable On Cambrian and Cumbrian Hills (Fifield) 



THE END OF SUMMER 257 

dust of motor-cars or as additions to the property of the 
landowner who happens to be renewing his fence ? They 
used to be as beautiful and cool and fresh as rivers, these 
green sisters of the white roads — illuminated borders of 
many a weary tale. But now, lest there should be no 
room for the dust, they are turning away from them the 
gypsies who used to camp there for a night. The indolent 
District Council that is anxious to get rid of its difficulties 
— for the moment — at the expense of a neighbouring 
district — it cares not — will send out its policemen to drive 
away the weary horses and sleeping children from the 
acre of common land which had hitherto been sacred — 
to what? — to an altar, a statue, a fountain, a seat? — No! 
to a stately notice-board; half-a-century ago the com- 
mon of which this is a useless patch passed on easy terms 
to the pheasant lords. The gypsies have to go. Give 
them a pitch for the night and you are regarded as an 
enemy of the community or perhaps even as a Socialist. 
The gypsies shall be driven from parish to parish, and 
finally settle down as squalid degenerate nomads in a 
town where they lose what beauty and courage they had, 
in adding to the difficulties of another council. Yet if 
they were in a cage or a compound which it cost money 
to see, hundreds would pay for a stare at their brown faces 
and bright eyes, their hooped tents, their horses, their 
carelessness of the crowd, and in a few years an imitation 
of these things will be applauded in a " pageant " of the 
town which has destroyed the reality. 

The grassy way ends with the moor at a pool beside a 

road, on one side of it six thatched cottages fenced by 

sycamore and ash and elm, on the other a grey farm and 

immense brown barn, within a long wall roofed with 

s 



258 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

mossy thatch; and the swallows fly low and slowly about 
the trees. 

First beeches line the rising and descending road — past 
a church whose ivied tombstones comrnemorate men of 
Cornish name — as far as an inn and a sycamore nobly 
balanced upon a pedestal of matted roots. Then there 
are ash-trees on either side and ricks of straw wetted to 
an orange hue, and beyond them the open cornland, and 
rising out of it an all-day-long procession in the south, 
the great company of the Downs again, some tipped with 
wood, some bare; in the north, a broken chain of woods 
upon low but undulating land seem the vertebras of a 
forest of old time stretching from east to west like the 
Downs. Hither and thither the drunken pewits cry over 
the furrows, and thousands of rooks and daws wheel over 
the stubble. As the day grows old it grows sweet and 
golden and the rain ceases, and the beauty of the Downs 
in the humid clearness does not long allow the eyes to 
wander away from them. At first, when the sun breaks 
through, all silver bright and acclaimed by miles of clouds 
in his own livery, the Downs below are violet, and have 
no form except where they carve the sky with their long 
arches. It is the woods northward that are chiefly glorified 
by the light and warmth, and the glades penetrating them 
and the shining stubble and the hedges, and the flying 
wood-pigeons and the cows of richest brown and milky 
white; the road also gleams blue and wet. But as the 
sun descends the light falls on the Downs out of a bright 
cave in the gloomy forest of sky, and their flanks are olive 
and their outlines intensely clear. From one summit to 
another runs a string of trees like cavalry connecting one 
beech clump with another, so that they seem actually to 



THE END OF SUMMER 259 

be moving and adding themselves to the clumps. Above 
all is the abstract beauty of pure line — coupled with the 
beauty of the serene and the uninhabited and remote — 
that holds the eye until at length the hills are humbled 
and dispread as part of the ceremony of sunset in a 
tranquil, ensanguined, quietly travelling sky. The blue 
swallows go slowly along the silent road beside me, and 
the last rays bless a grooved common grazed upon by 
cows and surrounded by ranges of low white buildings 
and a row of lichened grotesque limes, dark of bole, 
golden-leaved, where children are playing and an anvil 
rings. 

Frost follows after the blue silence and chill of twi- 
light, and the dawn is dimmest violet in a haze that 
reveals the candied grass, the soaking blue dark elms 
painted yellow only in one place, the red roofs, all in a 
world of the unborn, and the waters steaming around 
invisible crying coots. Gradually round white clouds — 
so dim that the sky seems but to dream of round white 
clouds — appear imbedded in the haze; the beams grow 
hot, and a breeze joins with them in sucking and scatter- 
ing all the sweet of the first fallen leaves, the weed fires 
and the late honeysuckle. 

Why are there no swifts to race and scream ? We 
fret over these stages of the descending year; we dream 
on such a day as this that there is no need of farther 
descent. We would preserve those days of the reaping; 
we have lost them; but we recall them now when the 
steam-plough has furrowed the sheeny stubble, and long 
for the day when the gentle north wind can only just stir 
the clusters of aspen-leaves, and the branches are motion- 
less. The nut bushes hang dreamily, heavily, over the 
s 2 



26o THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

white cool roads. The wood-pigeon's is the sole voice in 
the oak woods of the low hills, except that once or twice 
a swift screams as he pursues that martial flight of his — 
as of one who swings a sword as he goes — towards the 
beeches and hop gardens of the higher hills in the north; 
it is perhaps the last day for more than eight months that 
his cry will be heard. A few barley-straws hang from 
the hazels; some leaves are yellow. Autumn, in fact, 
seems possible to the mind that is not perfectly content 
with these calm sweet airs and the sense of the fulness 
of things. 

At a crossing a small island is made amidst this and 
three other roads, and on the island stands an oast house 
with two mellow cones and white leaning cowls; and 
beside it a simple tiled cart-lodge, dimly displaying massive 
wheels, curving bulwarks of waggons and straight shafts 
behind its doorless pillars of rough-hewn wood. Making 
one group with these, though separated from them by one 
road, is an old red farmhouse, of barely distinguishable 
timber and brick, with white-edged dormers and lower 
windows and doors, entrenched behind hollyhocks of deep- 
est red and the burning discs of everlasting sunflowers. 
Behind the gates stand four haystacks brightly thatched, 
and one that is dark and old and carved into huge stairs. 

Notice the gate into the rickyard. It is of the usual 
five oak bars; and across these is a diagonal bar from the 
lowest end nearest the hinge to the upper end of the 
opposite side, and from top to bottom a perpendicular 
cross-bar divides the gate. The top bar marks it as no 
common gate made at a factory with a hundred others of 
the same kind, though there are scores of them in Kent. 
It thickens gradually towards the hinge end of the gate, 



THE END OF SUMMER 261 

and then much more decidedly so that it resembles a gun- 
barrel and stock; and just where the stock begins it is 
carved with something like a trigger-guard; the whole 
being well proportioned, graceful but strong. In all the 
best gates of Kent, Sussex and Surrey and the South 
Country there is an approach to this form, usually without 
the trigger-guard, but sometimes having instead a much 
more elaborate variation of it which takes away from the 
dignity and simplicity of the gate. At the road's edge 
crooked quince-trees lean over a green pond and green 
but nearly yellow straight reeds; and four cart-horses, three 
sorrels and a grey, are grouped under one stately walnut. 

These things mingle their power with that of the 
silence and the wooded distance under the blue and rosy 
west. The slow dying of a train's roar beats upon the 
shores of the silence and the distance, and is swallowed up 
in them like foam in sand, and adds one more trophy to 
the glory of the twilight. 

Night passes, and the white dawn is poured out over 
the dew from the folds in low clouds of infinitely 
modulated grey. Autumn is clearly hiding somewhere in 
the long warm alleys under the green and gold of the 
hops. The very colours of the oast houses seem to wait 
for certain harmonies with oaks in the meadows and 
beeches in the steep woods. The songs, too, are those 
of the drowsy yellow-hammer, of the robin moodily 
brooding in orchards yellow spotted and streaked, of the 
unseen wandering willow-wren singing sweetly but in a 
broken voice of a matter now forgotten, of the melancholy 
twit of the single bullfinch as he flies. The sudden lyric 
of the wren can stir no corresponding energy in the land 
which is bowed, still, comfortable, like a deep-uddered 



262 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

cow fastened to the milking-stall and munching grains. 
Soon will the milk and honey flow. The reaping- 
machine whirrs; the wheelwrights have mended the 
waggons' wheels and patched their sides; they stand 
outside their lodges. 

There is a quarter of a sloping wheat-field reaped; the 
shocks stand out above the silvery stubble in the evening 
like rocks out of a moonlight sea. The unreaped corn is 
like a tawny coast; and all is calm, with the quiet of 
evening heavens fallen over the earth. This beauty of 
the ripe Demeter standing in the August land is incom- 
parable. It reminds one of the poet who said that he had 
seen a maid who looked like a fountain on a green lawn 
when the south wind blows in June; and one whose smile 
was as memorable as the new moon in the first still mild 
evening of the year, when it is seen for a moment only 
over the dark hills; and one whose walking was more 
kindling to the blood than good ale by a winter fire on an 
endless evening among friends; but that now he has met 
another, and when he is with her or thinks of her he 
becomes as one that is blind and deaf to all other things. 

But a few days and the bryony leaves are palest yellow 
in the hedge. Rooks are innumerable about the land, but 
their cawing, like all other sounds, like all the early 
bronze and rose and gold of the leaves, is muffled by the 
mist which endures right through the afternoon; and all 
day falls the gentle rain. In the hillside hop garden two 
long lines of women and children, red and white and 
black, are destroying the golden green of the hops, and 
they are like two caterpillars destroying a leaf. Pleasant 
it is now to see the white smoke from the oast house 
pouring solidly like curving plumes into the still rain, and 



THE END OF SUMMER 263 

to smell the smell, bitter and never to be too much sniffed 
and enjoyed, that travels v^^ide over the fields. For the 
hop drier has lit his tv^^o fires of Welsh coal and brim- 
stone and charcoal under the two cones of the oast house, 
and has spread his couch of strav^ on the floor v^^here he 
can sleep his many little sleeps in the busy day and night. 
The oast house consists of the pair of cones, w^hite-vaned 
and tiled, upon their tv^^o circular chambers in which the 
fires are lit. Attached to these on one side is a brick 
building of two large rooms, one upon the ground, where 
the hop drier sleeps and tends his fires, lighted only by 
doors at either side and divided by the wooden pillars 
which support the floor of the upper room. This, the 
oast chamber, reached by a ladder, is a beautiful room, 
its oak boards polished by careful use and now stained 
faintly by the green-gold of hops, its roof raftered and 
high and dim. Light falls upon it on one side from 
two low windows, on the opposite side from a door 
through which the hops arrive from the garden. The 
waggon waits below the door, full of the loose, stained 
hop-sacks which the carter and his boy lift up to the 
drier. From the floor two short ladders lead to the doors 
in the cones where the hops are suspended on canvas 
floors above the kilns. The inside of the cone is full of 
coiling fumes which have killed the young swallows in 
the nests under the cowl — the parents return again and 
again, but dare no longer alight on their old perches on 
the vanes. When dried the hops are poured out on 
the floor of the vast chamber in a lisping scaly pile, and 
the drier is continually sweeping back those which are 
scattered. Through a hole in the floor he forces them 
down into a sack reaching to the floor of the room below. 



264 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

He is hard at work making these sacks or " pokes," which, 
when full and their necks stitched up, are as hard as wood. 
Before the drying is over the full sacks will take up half 
the room. The children tired of picking come to admire 
and to visit all the corners of the room; of the granary 
alongside and its old sheepbells, its traps, a crossbow and 
the like; of the farmyard and barns, sacred except at this 
time. For a few minutes the sun is visible as a shapeless 
crimson thing above the mist and behind the elms. It is 
twilight; the wheels and hoofs of the last waggon ap- 
proach and arrive and die away. And so day after day 
the fires glow with ruby and sapphire and emerald; the 
cone wears its plume of smoke; and everything is yellow- 
green — the very scent of the drying hops can hardly be 
otherwise described, in its mixture of sharpness and mel- 
lowness. Then when the last sack is pressed benches are 
placed round the chamber and a table at one end. The 
master, who is giving up the farm, leans on the table 
and pays each picker and pole-puller and measurer, with 
a special word for each and a jest for the women. Ale 
and gin and cakes are brought iuy and the farmer leaves 
the women and one or two older men to eat and drink. 
The women in their shabby black skirts and whitish 
blouses shuffle through a dance or two, all modern and 
some American. One old man tipsily tottering recalls 
the olden time with a step-dance down the room; some 
laugh at him, others turn up their now roseate noses. 
Next year the hops are to be grubbed up; the old man to 
be turned out of his cottage — for he has paid no rent 
these seven years; but now it is cakes and ale, and the 
farmer has hiccupped a lying promise that his successor 
will go on growing hops. 



THE END OF SUMMER 265 



HAMPSHIRE. 

To-day is fair day. The scene is a green, slightly 
undulating common, grassy and rushy at its lower end 
where a large pond wets the margin of the high road, 
and at the upper end sprinkled with the dwarf and the 
common gorse out of which rise many tumuli, green 
or furzy mounds of earth, often surmounted by a few 
funereal pines. The common is small; it is bounded 
on every side by roads, and on one by a row of new 
mean houses; there is a golf-house among the tumuli; in 
one place a large square has been ploughed and fenced 
by a private owner. But the slope of the sandy soil is 
pleasant; in one place it is broken into a low cliff over- 
hanging the water, and this with the presence of the gorse 
give it a touch of the wildness by which it may still 
deserve its name of " heath." Most powerful of all in 
their effect upon the place are the tumuli. They are low 
and smooth; one or two scarcely heave the turf; some 
have been removed; and there is no legend attached to 
them. Yet their presence gives an indescribable charm 
and state, and melancholy too, and makes these few acres 
an expanse unequalled by any other of the same size. 
Not too far off to be said to belong to the heath, from 
which they are separated by three miles of cultivated land 
and a lesser beechen hill, are the Downs; among them one 
that bears a thin white road winding up at the edge of 
a dark wood. In the moist October air the Downs are 
very grave and gentle and near, and are not lost to sight 
until far beyond the turreted promontory of Chancton- 
bury. 



266 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

Early in the morning the beggars begin to arrive, the 
lame and the bh'nd, with or without a musical instrument. 
King of them all certainly is he with no legs at all and 
seeming not to need them, so active is he on a four- 
wheeled plank which suspends him only a foot above the 
ground. Many a strong man earns less money. The 
children envy him as he moves along, a wheeled animal, 
weather-beaten, white-haired, white-bearded, with neat 
black hat and white slop, a living toy, but with a deep 
voice, a concertina and a tin full of pence and halfpence. 

These unashamed curiosities line the chief approaches 
down which every one is going to the fair except a few 
shabby fellows who offer blue sheets full of music-hall 
ballads to the multitude and, with a whisper, indecent 
songs to the select. Another not less energetic, but stout 
and condescending, yellow-bearded, in a high hard felt 
hat, gives away tracts. The sound of a hymn from one 
organ mingles with the sound of " Put me among the 
girls " from another and the rattle of the legless man's 
offertory-tin. 

The main part of the fair consists of a double row, a 
grove, of tents and booths, roundabouts, caravans, traps 
and tethered ponies. A crowd of dark-clad women goes 
up and down between the rows : there is a sound of 
machine-made music, of firing at targets, of shouts and 
neighs and brays and the hoot of engines. Here at the 
entrance to the grove is a group of yellow vans; some 
children playing among the shafts and wheels and musing 
horses; and a gypsy woman on a stool, her head on one 
side, combing her black hair and talking to the children, 
while a puppy catches at the end of her tresses when 
they come swishing down. Beyond are cocoanut-shies. 



THE END OF SUMMER 267 

short-sighted cyclists performing, Aunt Sallies, rows of 
goldfish bowls into which a light ball has to be pitched to 
earn a prize, stalls full of toys, cheap jewellery and sweets 
like bedded-out plants, and stout women pattering along- 
side — bold women, with sleek black or yellow hair and 
the bearing and countenance of women who have to 
make their way in the world. Behind these, women are 
finishing their toilet and their children's among the vans, 
preparing meals over red crackling fires, and the horses 
rest their noses on the stalls and watch the crowd; the 
long yellow dogs are curled up among the wheels or 
nosing in the crowd. 

There are men selling purses containing a sovereign 
for sixpence, loud, fat cosmopolitans on a cockney basis 
with a ceaseless flow of cajolery intermingled with sly 
indecency; the country policeman in the background 
puzzling over his duty in the matter, but in the end 
paralyzed by the showmen's gift of words. One man 
has before him a counter on which he asks you to cover 
a red-painted disc with five smaller discs of zinc, charging 
twopence for the attempt and promising a watch to the 
great man who succeeds. After a batch of failures he 
himself, with good-natured but bored face, shows how 
easily it is done, and raising his eyes in despair craves for 
more courage from the audience. The crowd looks on, 
hesitating, until he singles out the most bashful country- 
man at the back of the throng, saying : " I like your face. 
You are a good sort. You have a cheerful face; it's the 
rich have the sad faces. So I'll treat you to a go." The 
hero steps forward and succeeds, but as it was a free trial 
he receives no watch; trying again for twopence he fails. 
Another tries : " By Jove ! that was a near one." A 



268 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

woman tries, and just as she is finishing, " You're a 'cute 
one, missus," he ejaculates, and she fails. Another tries, 
and the showman has a watch ready to hand over, and 
only at the last moment says excitedly (restoring the 
watch quietly to its place) : " I thought you'd got it that 
time. . . . Come along! It's the best game in the 
world." Once more he repeats the trick himself without 
looking, and then exclaims as he sweeps the discs 
together : " It's a silly game, I call it ! " He is like the 
preachers who show the stupid world how virtue is won : 
he has a large audience, a large paunch, and many go 
away disappointed. The crowd stares, and has the one 
deep satisfaction of believing that the woman who travels 
with him is not his wife. 

At the upper end of the grove is the gaudy green and 
gold and scarlet-painted and embossed entrance to the 
bioscope, raised a few feet above the crowd. On the 
platform before the door stand two painted men and a 
girl. The girl has a large nose, loose mouth and a ready, 
but uneasy, discontented smile as if she knows that her 
paint is an imperfect refuge from the gaze of the crowd; 
as if she knows that her eyes are badly darkened, and her 
white stockings soiled, and her legs too thin under her 
short skirt, and her yellow hair too stiff. She lounges 
wearily with a glib clown who wears a bristly fringe of 
sandy hair round his face, which tickles her and causes 
roars of laughter when he aims at a kiss. The other per- 
former is a contortionist, a small slender man in dirty, ill- 
fitting scarlet jacket with many small brass buttons, dirty 
brown trousers criss-crossed by yellow stripes; his hands in 
his pockets; his snub nose deep pink, and his lean face 
made yet leaner and more dismal by a thin streak of red 



THE END OF SUMMER 269 

paint on either cheek. His melancholy seems natural, yet 
adds to his vulgarity because he forsakes it so quickly 
when he smirks and turns away if the girl exposes her 
legs too much. For she turns a somersault with the clown 
at intervals; or doubles herself back to touch the ground 
first with her yellow hair and at last with her head; or is 
lifted up by the clown and, supported on the palm of one 
of his hands, hangs dangling in a limp bow, her face yet 
gaunter and sadder upside down with senseless eyes and 
helpless legs. The crowd watch — looking sideways at 
one another to get their cue — some with unconscious 
smiles entranced, but most of them grimly controlling the 
emotions roused by the girl or the contortionist or the 
clown and the thought of their unstable life. A few 
squirt water languidly or toss confetti. Others look from 
time to time to see whether any one in the county dare 
in broad daylight enter the booth for "gentlemen only," 
at the door of which stands a shabby gaudy woman of 
forty-five grinning contemptuously. 

Up and down moves the crowd — stiffly dressed children 
carrying gay toys or bowls of goldfish or cocoanuts — 
gypsy children with scarves, blue or green or red — lean, 
tanned, rough-necked labourers caged in their best clothes, 
except one, a labourer of well past middle age, a tall 
straight man with a proud grizzled head, good black hat 
of soft felt low in the crown, white scarf, white jacket, 
dark-brown corduroys above gleaming black boots. 

On the open heath behind the stalls they are selling 
horses by auction. Enormous cart-horses plunge out of the 
groups of men and animals and carry a little man sus- 
pended from their necks; stout men in grey gaiters and 
black hats hobble after. Or more decorously the animals 



270 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

are trotted up and down between rows of men away from 
the auctioneer and back again, their price in guineas 
mingh'ng with the statement that they are real workers, 
while a small boy hustles them with whip and shout from 
behind, and a big stiff man leads them and, to turn them 
at the end of the run, shoves his broad back into their 
withers. The Irish dealers traffic apart and try to sell 
without auction. Their horses and ponies, braided with 
primrose and scarlet, stand in a quiet row. Suddenly a 
boy leads out one on a halter, a hard, plump, small-headed 
beast bucking madly, and makes it circle rapidly about 
him, stopping it abruptly and starting it again, with a stiff 
pink flag which he flaps in its face or pokes into its ribs; 
if the beast refuses he raises a high loud " whoo-hoop " 
and curses or growls like an animal. For perhaps five 
minutes this goes on, the boy never abating his oaths and 
growls and whoops and flirtings of the pink flag. The 
horse is led back; a muttering calm follows; another horse 
is led out. Here and there are groups of cart-mares with 
huge pedestalled feet and their colts, or of men bending 
forward over long ash-sticks and talking in low tones. 
Horses race or walk or are backed into the crowd. Droves 
of bullocks are driven through the furze. Rows of bulls, 
sweating but silent and quiet, bow their heads and wait 
as on a frieze. Again the pink flags are flourished, and 
the dealer catches a horsy stranger by the arm and 
whispers and shows him the mare's teeth. This dealer 
is a big Irishman with flattened face and snaky nose, his 
voice deep and laughing. He smiles continually, but 
when he sees a possible buyer he puts on an artful expres- 
sion so transparent that his merry face shines clearly 
underneath and remains the same in triumph or rebuke — 



THE END OF SUMMER 271 

is the same at the end of the day when he leads off his 
horses and stopping at a wayside inn drinks on the kerb, 
but first gives the one nearest him a gulp from the 
tankard. 

All night — for a week — it rains, and at last there is a 
still morning of mist. A fire of weeds and hedge-clippings 
in a little flat field is smouldering. The ashes are crim- 
son, and the bluish-white smoke flows in 2l divine cloudy 
garment round the boy who rakes over the ashes. The 
heat is great, and the boy, straight and well made, wear- 
ing close gaiters of leather that reach above the knees, is 
languid at his task, and often leans upon his rake to watch 
the smoke coiling away from him like a monster reluct- 
antly fettered and sometimes bursting into an anger of 
sprinkled sparks. He adds some wet hay, and the smoke 
pours out of it like milky fleeces when the shearer reveals 
the inmost wool with his shears. Above and beyond him 
the pale blue sky is dimly white-clouded over beech woods, 
whose many greens and yellows and yellow-greens are 
softly touched by the early light which cannot penetrate 
to the blue caverns of shade underneath. Athwart the 
woods rises a fount of cottage-smoke from among mellow 
and dim roofs. Under the smoke and partly scarfed at 
times by a drift from it is the yellow of sunflower and 
dahlia, the white of anemone, the tenderest green and 
palest purple of a thick cluster of autumn crocuses that 
have broken out of the dark earth and stand surprised, 
amidst their own weak light as of the underworld from 
which they have come. Robins sing among the fallen 
apples, and the cooing of wood-pigeons is attuned to the 
soft light and the colours of the bowers. The yellow 



272 THE SOUTH COUNTRY 

apples gleam. It is the gleam of melting frost. Under all 
the dulcet warmth of the face of things lurks the bitter 
spirit of the cold. Stand still for more than a few 
moments and the cold creeps with a warning and then a 
menace into the breast. That is the bitterness that makes 
this morning of all others in the year so mournful in its 
beauty. The colour and the grace invite to still con- 
templation and long draughts of dream; the frost compels 
to motion. The scent is that of wood-smoke, of fruit and 
of some fallen leaves. This is the beginning of the 
pageant of autumn, of that gradual pompous dying which 
has no parallel in human life yet draws us to it with sure 
bonds. It is a dying of the flesh, and we see it pass 
through a kind of beauty which we can only call spiritual, 
of so high and inaccessible a strangeness is it. The sight 
of such perfection as is many times achieved before the 
end awakens the never more than lightly sleeping human 
desire of permanence. Now, now is the hour; let things 
be thus; thus for ever; there is nothing further to be 
thought of; let these remain. And yet we have a pre- 
monition that remain they must not for more than a little 
w^hile. The motion of the autumn is a fall, a surrender, 
requiring no effort, and therefore the mind cannot long be 
blind to the cycle of things as in the spring it can when 
the effort and delight of ascension veils the goal and the 
decline beyond. A few frosts now, a storm of wind and 
rain, a few brooding mists, and the woods that lately 
hung dark and massive and strong upon the steep hills are 
transfigured and have become cloudily light and full of 
change and ghostly fair; the crowing of a cock in the still 
misty morning echoes up in the many-coloured trees like 
a challenge to the spirits of them to come out and be 



THE END OF SUMMER 273 

seen, but in vain. For months the woods have been 
homely and kind, companions and backgrounds to our 
actions and thoughts, the wide walls of a mansion utterly 
our own. We could have gone on living with them for 
ever. We had given up the ardours, the extreme ecstasy 
of our first bridal affection, but we had not forgotten 
them. We could not become indifferent to the Spanish 
chestnut-trees that grow at the top of the steep rocky 
banks on either side of the road and mingle their foliage 
overhead. Of all trees well-grown chestnuts are among 
the most pleasant to look up at. For the foliage is not 
dense and it is for the most part close to the large boughs, 
so that the light comes easily down through all the hori- 
zontal leaves, and the shape of each separate one is not 
lost in the multitude, while at the same time the bold 
twists of the branches are undraped or easily seen through 
such translucent green. The trunks are crooked, and the 
handsome deep furrowing of the bark is often spirally cut. 
The limbs are few and wide apart so as to frame huge 
delicately lighted and shadowed chambers of silence or of 
birds' song. The leaves turn all together to a leathern 
hue, and when they fall stiffen and display their shape 
on the ground and long refuse to be merged in the dismal 
trodden hosts. But when the first one floats past the eye 
and is blown like a canoe over the pond we recover once 
more our knowledge and fear of Time. All those ladders 
of goose-grass that scaled the hedges of spring are dead 
grey; they are still in their places, but they clamber no 
longer. The chief flower is the yellow bloom set in the 
dark ivy round the trunks of the ash-trees; and where it 
climbs over the holly and makes a solid sunny wall, and 
in the hedges, a whole people of wasps and wasp-like flies 

T 



274 ^HE SOUTH COUNTRY 

are always at the bloom with crystal wings, except when 
a passing shadow disperses them for a moment with one 
buzz. But these cannot long detain the eye from the 
crumbling woods in the haze or under the large white 
clouds — from the amber and orange bracken about our 
knees and the blue recesses among the distant golden 
beeches when the sky is blue but beginning to be laden 
with loose rain-clouds, from the line of leaf-tipped poplars 
that bend against the twilight sky; and there is no scent 
of flowers to hide that of dead leaves and rotting fruit. 
We must watch it until the end, and gain slowly the 
philosophy or the memory or the forgetfulness that fits 
us for accepting winter's boon. Pauses there are, of 
course, or what seem pauses in the declining of this 
pomp; afternoons when the rooks waver and caw over 
their beechen town and the pigeons coo content; dawns 
when the white mist is packed like snow over the vale 
and the high woods take the level beams and a hundred 
globes of dew glitter on every thread of the spiders' 
hammocks or loose perpendicular nets among the thorns, 
and through the mist rings the anvil a mile away with a 
music as merry as that of the daws that soar and dive 
between the beeches and the spun white cloud; mornings 
full of the sweetness of mushrooms and blackberries from 
the short turf among the blue scabious bloom and the 
gorgeous brier; empurpled evenings before frost when 
the robin sings passionate and shrill and from the garden 
earth float the smells of a hundred roots with messages of 
the dark world; and hours full of the thrush's soft 
November music. The end should come in heavy and 
lasting rain. At all times I love rain, the early momen- 
tous thunderdrops, the perpendicular cataract shining, or 



THE END OF SUMMER 275 

at night the h'ttle showers, the spongy mists, the tempest- 
uous mountain rain. I h'ke to see it possessing the whole 
earth at evening, smothering civih'zation, taking away 
from me myself everything except the power to walk 
under the dark trees and to enjoy as humbly as the hissing 
grass, while some twinkling house-light or song sung by 
a lonely man gives a foil to the immense dark force. I 
like to see the rain making the streets, the railway station, 
a pure desert, whether bright with lamps or not. It foams 
off the roofs and trees and bubbles into the water-butts. 
It gives the grey rivers a daemonic majesty. It scours the 
roads, sets the flints moving, and exposes the glossy chalk 
in the tracks through the woods. It does work that will 
last as long as the earth. It is about eternal business. In 
its noise and myriad aspect I feel the mortal beauty of 
immortal things. And then after many days the rain 
ceases at midnight with the wind, and in the silence of 
dawn and frost the last rose of the world is dropping her 
petals down to the glistering whiteness, and there they 
rest blood-red on the winter's desolate coast. 



T 2 



INDEX 



Angelico, Fra, 253 
April, 31, 155 
Arabian Nights, 63, 222 
Ashdown, 8, 47, 48 
August, 51, 18 r, 186, 2] 
262 

Bain, F. W., 222 

Ballads, 224, 24c 

Belloc, Hilaire, i 

Beowulf, 158 

Berkshire, 255 

Blake, 35, 133 

Books, 26, 109, 130, 13 

178 
Borrow, 77, 117 
Bradley, A. G., 1 1 
Bracken J Henry, 178 
Browne, Thomas, 86 
Byron, 1 1 1 

Canal, Wilts, and Berks, 3 

Cathedrals, 4 

Catullus, 109 

Centuries of Meditation, 126 

Chaucer, 109, no, 125 

Colman's Hatch, 60 

Conrad, Joseph, 130 



Cornwall, 154, 249 
Cows, 129, 204, 252 
Crouch's Croft, 47 
Crowborough, 47 
o Cuckoo, 41 

Doughty, Charles M., 147, 

153 
Downs, 1, 2, 8, 10, 28, 31, 

35, 38, 40, 48, 50, 53, 71, 
87, loi, 104, 152, 169, 
183, 205, 210, 227, 237, 
255» 258 
[, Drayton, Michael, 109 

Fair, A South Country, 266 
February, 17 

Game, 59, 68 
Genee, Mademoiselle, 179 
Gerald of Wales, 150 
Golden Age, 125 
Gypsies, 129, 257, 266 

Hampshire, 19, 28, 46, 121, 
129, 186, 188, 196, 210, 
230, 255, 265 

History, 5, 147 
277 



278 



INDEX 

October, 80, 265 



Hops, 262 

Houses, 12, 57, 116, 117, 

118, 196, 201, 220, 227, Fantagruely 178 

229, 235 Pattison, Mark, 145 

Hudson, W. H., 130 Penshurst, 202 

Piet Down, 47 

Inns, 12, 72, 102, 192, 208, Pilgrim's Way, 3, 11, 44, 50, 
214, 216, 233, 240 52, 55, 58, 59, 210 

JefFeries, Richard, 136, 145, Railway, 95, 199 



245 
Jonson, Ben, 109, 202 
Journalist, 7, 78, 125 
June, 121 

Kent, 1 1, 44, 47, 260 

Lamb, Charles, 138 
Land's End, 42, 166 



Rivers of the South Country, 
2, 3, 52, 107, 219, 229, 
232 

Roads, loi, 108, 124, 193, 
215, 219, 228, 246, 255 

Salt, Henry S., 256 
Sandsbury Lane, 60 
Scott, 63 

London, 3, 10, 51, 60, 74, Sea, 15, 157 
87, 95, 98, 171, 190 Shelley, 112, 114 

Lucas, E. v., II Sidney, Sir Philip, 109, 125, 

202 

M, 1 1 5 Signboards, 4 

Maeterlinck, 36 Socialism, 94 

Malory, 130 Socialist, 257 

March, 20, 30 Spring, 22 et passim 

May, 49, 84, 103, 107, 109, Statins, 229 
112, 117, 128 Suburbs, 61 

Milton, John, 109 Suffolk, 15 

Morris, William, 109, 113 Sunday, 124, 186 



Names of places, 148 
Nature-teaching, 141 
Nightingale, 33, 206 
November, 99 



Surrey, 41, 58, 98 

Sussex, 68, 100, 114, 181, 

189, 196, 255 
Swinburne, A. C., 1 1 1 
" Swineherds County," 211 



Oasts, 49, 260 



Thoreau, 76, 77, 145 



INDEX 



279 



Tolstoy, 143 

Traherne, Thomas, 126, 131, 

134, 142 
Trespassers, 59, 215 

Vagrants, 25, 188, 249 
Vaughan, Thomas, 137 
Villon, 109 

Wales, 7, 9, 10, 76, 77, 125, 

150, 153, 163, 175, 232 
Walton, Izaak, 125 



Wandsworth, 74, 255 
Weald, 53, 56, 58, 70, 85, 

106, 169 
West, the, 9, 254 
White, Gilbert, 76, 145 
Whitman, Walt, 113, 135 
Wiltshire, 11, 191, 210, 235, 

245 
Winchester, 6, 7, 38 
Woolmer, 8, 47 
Wordsworth, 6, 77, 132, 137, 

241 



THE END 



Richard Clav & Sons, Limited, 

BREAD STREET HILL, E.G., AND 
BUNGAY, SUFFOLK. 



\1 



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CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET 




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